NSA habit grows to 33,697 Gmail address BOOKs
- 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.
The presentation also specified that on a given day around 500,000 buddy lists from chat services were collected, as well as inbox displays from web-based email services; the latter can include contact information as well as the first few lines of emails themselves in certain cases.
Given that the data is captured while in transit, companies like Google and Yahoo don’t need to be notified when information from their respective services is captured. The Post also notes the large discrepancy between data collected from Yahoo versus other online services, speculating that the company’s relatively late adoption of default SSL encryption may be partially to blame.
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.
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 inbox displays of Web-based e-mail accounts.
The collection depends on secret arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services in control of facilities that direct traffic along the Internet’s main data routes.