One benefit of Windows Phone: The NSA may not be snooping on you

If you own a Windows Phone, the NSA may not bother to snoop on you, even as the intelligence agency gathers vast amounts of information from apps leaking from iOS and Android phones. In all of the revelations about the NSA and its British counterpart collecting data leaking from phone apps, not a single mention has been made of snooping on Windows Phones.

The revelations about the NSA and British intelligence tapping into data leaking from smartphone apps was published by the New York Times, The Guardian, and Pro Publica. They are based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and they're chilling. The NSA has been using leaky apps to scoop up data about everything imaginable about people, including age, gender, location, household income, marital status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and much more.

The amount of information is so vast that it may be almost unusable. The Times reports:

In 2009, the American and British spy agencies each undertook a brute-force analysis of a tiny sliver of their cellphone databases. Crunching just one month of N.S.A. cellphone data, a secret report said, required 120 computers and turned up 8,615,650 "actors" — apparently callers of interest. A similar run using three months of British data came up with 24,760,289 actors.

A briefing held in May, 2010 provides detailed information about how the NSA and British agencies have done their snooping. A slide deck from the presentation makes clear that only the iPhone and Android were targeted. You can see slides detailing how those operating systems were targeted, below.


Note that in both instances, what the NSA calls Warrior Pride was ported to the smartphone platform. Warrior Pride is the name of spyware kits for use on the iPhone and Android phones.Windows Phone wasn't mentioned in the slides in the 2010 presentation. Neither were any Microsoft-created forerunners of Window Phone, such as Windows Mobile.

In another set of NSA slides published by the New York Times, the Blackberry and Symbian phone operating systems were mentioned, although they doesn't detail precisely what information is gathered from those phones, aside from targeting Blackberry PINs.

Notice something missing in all this? That's right -- Windows Phone. In all the reporting and all of the documents published, not a single word said Windows Phone or its apps were targeted. Neither was Windows Mobile or any other forerunners of Windows Phone. The reason is likely that Windows Phone simply doesn't have a large enough installed base. So according to these documents, at least, if you're a Windows Phone user, the NSA isn't interested, at least it wasn't at the time the documents were put together.

Keep in mind that these documents are several years old. When some of them were created Microsoft smartphone operating systems had even a smaller market share than Windows Phone currently does, and Windows Phone itself was only released in 2010. So the NSA may well have begun targeting Windows Phone by now. But it does appear that at least in the past, and possibly even now, Windows Phone users have been exempt from the NSA using their smartphones to snoop on them.

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
Shop Tech Products at Amazon