Eye on the ‘Nugget’

January 27, 2014

eyeAnother off little Eddie’s never-ending entrée-menu (via the Guardian):

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents…
Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation — and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

The plot thickens, or expands to a limitless aperture on life.

(Illustration: M.C. Escher’s ‘Eye‘ found here).

More from ProPublica:

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.
In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.
According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

The efforts were part of an initiative called “the mobile surge,” according to a 2011 British document, an analogy to the troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One N.S.A. analyst’s enthusiasm was evident in the breathless title — “Golden Nugget!” — given to one slide for a top-secret 2010 talk describing iPhones and Android phones as rich resources, one document notes.

As the program accelerated, the N.S.A. nearly quadrupled its budget in a single year, to $767 million in 2007 from $204 million, according to a top-secret Canadian analysis written around the same time.
Even sophisticated users are often unaware of how smartphones offer a unique opportunity for one-stop shopping for information about them.
“By having these devices in our pockets and using them more and more,” said Philippe Langlois, who has studied the vulnerabilities of mobile phone networks and is the founder of the Paris-based company Priority One Security, “you’re somehow becoming a sensor for the world intelligence community.”

The NSA chronicles have become more than fascinating — a surreal science-fiction narrative unfolding inside a fishbowl.

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