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Are the Angry Birds spying on you? NSA using 'leaky apps' to gather data on users

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By Lena-Sullivan 2 minutes ago

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Claims made in documents provided by Edward Snowden claim popular apps such as Angry Birds (pictured) are being used to siphon up user's data
Claims made in documents provided by Edward Snowden claim popular apps such as Angry Birds (pictured) are being used to siphon up user's data

DOCUMENTS published by The Guardian and New York Times show some of the world's most popular mapping, social network and gaming apps feed America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ with a "golden nugget" of users' personal data.

The reports suggest that US and British intelligence easily get regular access to data generated by apps such as the popular Angry Birds game or Google Maps. The huge amounts of personal data can include details such as a user's location, sexual orientation and even political affiliation.

Intelligence agencies' interest in mobile phones and the networks they run on has been documented in several of Snowden's leaks before, but the focus on apps shows how everyday, harmless-looking pieces of software can be used as tools of espionage.

Angry Birds, the addictive birds-versus-pigs game, which has been downloaded more than 1.7 billion times worldwide, was one of the most interesting and surprising examples.

The Times and ProPublica revealed a 2012 British intelligence report laid out how to extract Angry Bird users' information from phones running the Android operating system.

Another document, a 14-page NSA slide show published to the web, listed a host of other mobile apps, including those made by Facebook, photo sharing site Flickr, and the film-oriented Flixster.

It wasn't clear precisely what information can be extracted from which apps, but one of the slides titled "Golden Nugget!" which set out the agency's "perfect scenario" gave the example of a user who uploaded a photo using a social media app. From this one upload, it said the agency could possibly obtain a phone number, friends list, location and "a host of other social working data as well as location".

As well as these apps, the NBC is also reporting that Britains GCHQ also has the ability to tap into any internet cable and spy on what people are doing on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter - all without these companies knowing or consenting to it.

The British spy agency also shares this information with their American NSA friends, with a previous Snowden document describing a joint program called MUSCULAR where the two agencies shared their entire data flow that had been taken from Yahoo and Google.

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links," Google said in a statement. "We do not provide any government, including the U.K. government, with access to our systems. These allegations underscore the urgent need for reform of government surveillance practices."

What do you think about these intelligence agencies and their spying actions?

 

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