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NSA: From Angry Birds to the GOP

The good ol' days?

The good ol’ days? Credit: Plismo, Wikimedia Commons

On the heels of Obama’s signal intelligence speech and just a day before the president’s State of the Union address, yet another Snowden document dump has come to the fore, this time detailing data collection activities from leaky mobile apps, such as Angry Birds.

Mobile networks have proven to be a rich resource for the intelligence community. A slide from Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) describes mobile devices as “the most prolific customer product ever invented” and estimates that by 2015 90 percent of of Internet access will be through mobile devices. Smart phone data, so says one slide, is the “Golden Nugget!” This data includes geo-tracking (cf., this December report in the Washington Post), personal information from mobile apps (age, sex and marital status), buddy lists, and the contents of address books. As the New York Times says, “With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.”

Meanwhile, according to TIME, the Republican National Committee has called for an “end” to “blanket surveillance” activities. This comes months after the Amash-Conyers amendment, which sought to rein in NSA activities allowed under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, flopped in the House. Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), a civil libertarian of the Ron Paulian persuasion, lost the battle in July, but it seems like the party is flipping back to his side. Indeed, the RNC’s statement points out, some of the PATRIOT Act’s authors have reversed their position, including Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who stated that the Obama administration and FISA are “relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.” A curious turn-around, indeed.



Hannah Gais

Hannah is assistant editor at the Foreign Policy Association, a nonresident fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and the managing editor of Her work has appeared in a number of national and international publications, including Al Jazeera America, U.S. News and World Report, First Things, The Moscow Times, The Diplomat, Truthout, Business Insider and Foreign Policy in Focus.

Gais is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, where she focused on Eastern Christian Theology and European Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @hannahgais