Stanford Researcher Finds Visible Link in Records

Back in early December, the NSA opened its doors to long-time journalist powerhouse 60 Minutes, only to show them the barely scratched surface of what they’ve been up to behind the veil for nearly 55 years. By now the entire piece has been laughed off the stage as nothing more than a puff piece produced by an old military academy buddy of someone higher-up in the NSA, with softballed questions and barely a drop of sweat seen on the foreheads of any of the officials being “interviewed”.

For about 5 minutes we watch as the head of the program tells us there is no possible way they would be able to extract personal information from someone’s phone number or their call history, but when they’ve been lying this long I guess it’s a little naive to hope for anything otherwise at this point.


By pairing the records with metadata (easily obtainable from services such as Google), researchers were able to us public services to quickly identify those who had made calls to and from the United States through countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“We randomly sampled 5,000 numbers from our crowdsourced MetaPhone dataset and queried the Yelp, Google Places, and Facebook directories. With little marginal effort and just those three sources—all free and public—we matched 1,356 (27.1%) of the numbers. Specifically, there were 378 hits (7.6%) on Yelp, 684 (13.7%) on Google Places, and 618 (12.3%) on Facebook.”

Obviously, if a couple of bored researchers looking to fact check the government can do it, an organization with the funding and raw manpower of the NSA and GCHQ should have no issues breaking straight through any problems you might expect someone to have when trying to surveil every waking moment of a “potential terrorist” they’ve deemed a threat to their way of life.

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