Monday, October 14, 2013

The NSA intercepts personal e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services.

We are also to blame for having given up our privacy.MJ

NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally
By Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, 
Monday, October 14, 6:53 PM
The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top-secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.

Rather than targeting individual users, the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts. Analysis of that data enables the agency to search for hidden connections and to map relationships within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets.

During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.

Read the documents

The NSA's problem? Too much data.

Read select pages from an NSA briefing on problems with high-volume, low-value collection of e-mail address books and buddy lists.

SCISSORS: How the NSA collects less

An NSA presentation on the SCISSORS tool that helps the agency cut out data it does not need.

An excerpt from the NSA's Wikipedia

An article from "Intellipedia," the NSA's classified wiki, on the problem of overcollection of data from Internet contact lists.