The Washington Post has more revelations fromÂ former National Security Agency Edward Snowden concerning the NSAâ€™s surveillance program, which have affected Americansâ€™ privacy and civil liberties:
TheÂ National Security AgencyÂ is gathering nearly 5Â billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals â€” and map their relationships â€” in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractorÂ Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.
The NSA does not target Americansâ€™ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones â€œincidentally,â€ a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result. […]
In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among theÂ NSA surveillance programsÂ that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them. […]
The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools â€” known collectively asÂ CO-TRAVELERÂ â€” allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.
Still, location data, especially when aggregated over time, is widely regarded among privacy advocates as uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical techniques enable NSA analysts to map cellphone ownersâ€™ relationships by correlating their patterns of movement over time with thousands or millions of other phone users who cross their paths. Cellphones broadcast their locations even when they are not being used to place a call or send a text.
CO-TRAVELERÂ and related tools require the methodical collection and storage of location data on what amounts to a planetary scale. The government is tracking people from afar into confidential business meetings or personal visits to medical facilities, hotel rooms, private homes and other traditionally protected spaces.