Meet the NSA’s Own Social Graphs, Composed of Americans’ Data
In an effort spanning the past three years, the United States National Security Agency has mined its massive stores of collected citizen metadata to create a series of social graphs, according to documents and confidential sources unearthed by the New York Times, mapping the large, interconnected web of connections between people.
The graphs — which the Times claims details specifics as granular as citizens’ locations at certain times, personal connections with others, and traveling companions — were created piecemeal from vast public data stores, including (but not limited to) Facebook profiles, voter registration records, tax data and property records.
The NSA acknowledged the program in a statement to the Times, but declined to state the number of Americans involved. Any data queries are required to have some sort of “foreign intelligence justification,” an NSA spokeswoman told the Times.
The report is the latest in a series of revelations on the scale and depth of U.S. surveillance efforts, kick-started by the bombshell disclosures of former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden over the summer.
Since Snowden’s disclosures, Silicon Valley Internet companies have issued vehement denials that the U.S. government had carte blanche access to customer data. The extent to which companies can explain how much data has been handed over to the government is limited, however, as current laws prohibit companies from disclosing certain details related to national security.
It is unclear how much the NSA’s graphing efforts rely on data from Facebook, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or any other number of Internet companies that have complied with the government’s requests for private data.
Read more of the Times’ in-depth account here.