The next time you play Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, just remember: Big Brother is watching you.
Or, at least, information about you may be finding its way into NSA data-banks. Which may or may not come as a surprise at this point, depending on how closely you’ve been following all of this.
The spy agency has reportedly placed agents in online games like Second Life and World of Warcraft, and even intercepted shipments of laptops to install spyware and even hardware en route to recipients.
Now, ProPublica, along with The New York Times and The Guardian, are reporting on yet another way spy agencies gather data about us: So-called “leaky apps” have enabled spies in the US and the UK to grab up mobile phone users’ personal data in unprecedented quantities.
Since many of the apps we use send information such as our location, unique phone ID, and even sometimes far more personal info to advertisers, spy agencies are able to intercept that data as it’s transferred via cellular networks.
“The documents show that the N.S.A. and the British agency routinely obtain information from certain apps, particularly some of those introduced earliest to cellphones,” ProPublica reports. “With some newer apps, including Angry Birds, the agencies have a similar capability, the documents show, but they do not make explicit whether the spies have put that into practice. Some personal data, developed in profiles by advertising companies, could be particularly sensitive: A secret 2012 British intelligence document says that spies can scrub smartphone apps that contain details like a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.”
That’s worrisome, to be sure, though the spy agency reassures us that there are rules in place to keep our privacy intact.
“N.S.A. does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission,” the agency said in a response to ProPublica. “Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in N.S.A.’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process.”
But as with so much else surrounding these recent revelations of domestic spying, the details are scarce, and each new report adds fresh veneer to a troubling big picture.
P.S. It just occurred to me that the perfect mobile game to play after reading this would be the remake of Spy vs. Spy. A game from back in the good old days, when everything was so much more black and white.