Report: NSA is collecting your email address books and buddy lists

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The National Security Agency is collecting the email and buddy list contacts of Americans in its efforts to identify foreign intelligence and terrorist networks around the world, The Washington Post reports.

“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,” according to documents disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Washington Post reports.

Instead of targeting individual users, however, the contact lists are collected in bulk under the legal authorities granted to the agency by Congress in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act.

The contact lists are analyzed in bulk to identify hidden patterns and networks not easily discernible through human intelligence collection and analysis.

“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,” reports the Washington Post.

Such collection, reports the publication, corresponds to a total of about 250 million address books collected per year.

“Each day, the presentation said, the NSA collects contacts from an estimated 500,000 buddy lists on live-chat services as well as from the in-box displays of Web-based e-mail accounts,” said the publication.

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