According to the latest documents released by whistleblower-turned-international-privacy-hero Edward Snowden, the NSA in conjunction with the GCHQ is able to determine the age, race, gender, location, and even sexual orientation of cell phone users from so-called “leaky apps” on Android and iOS devices.
ProPublica, The New York Times, and The Guardian simultaneously released a new set of documents today, which suggest that the National Security agency has the unique capability to extract data from games like Angry Birds, apps like Google Maps, and even several different third party email providers that went unnamed in the publicized PowerPoint slides.
Apparently following the theme of “favorite children’s TV shows in the 1980’s”, each function of the overall program is named after a different Smurf that would only exist in some dark, twisted, Orwellian version of the much beloved animated show.
“Nosey Smurf” had the ability to turn your microphone on whenever he liked without the user being any the wiser, and “Tracker Smurf” could find you anywhere you might be hiding in Hemlock Hollow.
Perhaps the most sinister of all, “Dreamy Smurf” was able to covertly switch your phone on for monitoring purposes without disrupting the screen, even when you thought it had been powered down. Of course this technique is primarily built for iPhones, as anyone with an Android can simply take the battery out of the back of their device to thwart any attempts to power it up without getting permission first.
By extracting advertising data from applications that were considered “leaky” by the surveillance arms of the US and UK governments, analysts at each agency were able to accurately determine a variety of characteristics that could quickly and efficiently identify the owner based on nothing more than the way they interacted with their digital lives. Once they combined the information gained from the app with other profiles created via programs such as MUSCULAR and PRISM, they could then make predictions based on these factors to figure out who was using a particular phone in a matter of a few hours.
The publisher of Angry Birds, Rovio, claims they had no knowledge of the programs, and made it clear they would not have given up the information voluntarily if approached by either outfit.