Snowden: NSA is slurping your address book

Snowden contacts

Ed continues to leak top-secrets.

In his latest revelation, Edward Snowden says the National Security Agency is copying your contacts lists. It's doing that by tapping Internet traffic, to the tune of 250 million lists per year -- both email address books and IM buddy lists.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers make Hoover puns.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Barton Gellman, Ashkan Soltani, and Julie Tate post this news:

The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists...many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and...Edward Snowden. [It] intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. ... Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships.


During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected [689,246] e-mail address books from Yahoo...Hotmail...Facebook...Gmail and...unspecified other providers...a rate of more than 250 million a year.


The NSA has not been collect contact lists in bulk, would be illegal to do so from facilities in the United States. [It does so] from access points “all over the world,” one official said. ... “None of those are on U.S. territory.”  MORE

David Meyer points the crypto-finger at Yahoo!:

Yahoo address lists seem to be the biggest target. ... The company does not yet encrypt its users’ connections. Yahoo will start encrypting these connections. ... It goes without saying that the company should have been doing this already.  MORE

Noting the irony, Jack Clark quotes Snowden:

"[It's] dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything, even when it's not needed." We imagine the NSA would bridle at this description, given [its] recent claim that it isn't spying [but] "seeking to understand online communication tools & technologies".  

Just as Uncle Sam's spooks are trying to understand what we do online, Snowden says in his speech that he felt compelled to leak the information on the programs so citizens can do the same.  MORE

And Amy Hughes is profoundly, genuinely bothered:

The profound problem I have with this is the way these phrases get distorted. [For example] "drug smuggler." If you order your prescription drugs online because...American pharmacies charge $150 - $300 a month for a product you can buy for $30 in India, are you a drug smuggler? ... What if the person running the website you buy from is?


I'm genuinely bothered at the way the Administration has stretched the Espionage Act of 1917 to attempt and classify journalists or leakers as enemies of the state. ... I don't trust these groups to write the definitions of who does and doesn't qualify for surveillance.  MORE

Meanwhile, Danny Sullivan sees the light:

Stupid NSA. Could have just created a social network & everyone would have voluntarily uploaded their contact lists.  MORE

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