New documents show how the NSA infers relationships based on mobile location data (Washington Post, 10 Dec 2013) – Everyone who carries a cellphone generates a trail of electronic breadcrumbs that records everywhere they go. Those breadcrumbs reveal a wealth of information about who we are, where we live, who our friends are and much more. And as we reported last week, the National Security Agency is collecting location information in bulk — 5 billion records per day worldwide — and using sophisticated algorithms to assist with U.S. intelligence-gathering operations. How do they do it? And what can they learn from location data? The latest documents show the extent of the location-tracking program we first reported last week. Read on to learn more about what the documents show. The NSA doesn’t just have the technical capabilities to collect location-based data in bulk. A 24-page NSA white paper shows that the agency has a powerful suite of algorithms, or data sorting tools, that allow it to learn a great deal about how people live their lives. Those tools allow the agency to perform analytics on a global scale, examining data collected about potentially everyone’s movements in order to flag new surveillance targets. For example, one NSA program, code-named Fast Follower, was developed to allow the NSA to identify who might have been assigned to tail American case officers at stations overseas. By correlating an officer’s cellphone signals to those of foreign nationals in the same city, the NSA is able to figure out whether anyone is moving in tandem with the U.S. officer.
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