updated 08:42 pm EST, Thu January 16, 2014
New program gathers data for trend analysis, profiling of selectees
The revelations of the NSA surveillance first broken by Edward Snowden continue. The NSA is accused of building the "Dishfire" surveillance network, which targets 200 million text messages per day for collection and analysis. Information collected by the program allegedly includes names, phone numbers, and images.
The United States generates six billion texts per day, according to a 2012 survey. The 200 million per day is an appreciable fraction, but not nearly all. An NSA spokesperson reiterated to UK newspaper The Guardian that "the implication that NSA's collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false." The NSA added that "privacy protections for US persons exist across the entire process concerning the use, handling, retention, and dissemination of SMS data in Dishfire."
From the program, The Guardian reports that the agency was able to collect more than five million missed-call alerts, specifics of 1.6 million border crossings a day from network roaming messages, 110,000 names from electronic business card transmissions, geolocation details on "persons of interest," and details on over 800,000 financial transactions.