NSA Using Secret Social Network To Map Your Connections To Others

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

The National Security Agency has been compiling data on Americans’ social connections since 2010 in order to graph the names and locations of everyone they associate with, the New York Times reported.

According to TechDirt, you’re signed up for this program even if you didn’t realize it.

Without a warrant, the NSA can analyze phone calls and email logs and track social connections, including locations at certain times. The data made into a sophisticated graph showing all a person’s connections, according to a document recently attained by The Times.

The document, dated January 2011, said the NSA was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number, or other identifier. This data can be “augmented” by using public and commercial data, including insurance information, bank codes, Facebook profiles, voter registration rolls, property records, tax data, passenger manifests, and GPS information.

The NSA did not indicated how many Americans have been socially mapped this way. The agency did not say which phone and email databases are used to compile their diagrams.

The documents don’t explain what resulted from these sophisticated maps – “contact chains.”

An agency spokeswoman told the the Times, “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.”

“All of NSA’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose,” she added. “Our activities are centered on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and cybersecurity.”

“Metadata can be very revealing,” Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, told the Times. “Knowing things like the number someone just dialed or the location of the person’s cellphone is going to allow them to assemble a picture of what someone is up to. It’s the digital equivalent of tailing a suspect.”

Sources: New York Times, TechDirt