|NSA PowerPoint presentation slide, exposed by Washington Post, partially|
revealed scope of agency's collection of Internet contacts of email users
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.Interesting revelations in WaPo's article are that spam sometimes drives the NSA's data collection efforts nuts, that it collects twice as many address books from Yahoo accounts, probably because unlike other online services, Yahoo isn't using encryption, and that Google started using encryption in 2010 in part to discourage the NSA's wholesale spying on its customers.
Evidently NSA Director Keith Alexander is attempting to skirt his agency's lack of authorization to collect contact lists on Americans by doing so overseas:
Taken together, the data would enable the NSA, if permitted, to draw detailed maps of a person’s life, as told by personal, professional, political and religious connections. The picture can also be misleading, creating false “associations” with ex-spouses or people with whom an account holder has had no contact in many years.What the Washington Post thinks you need to know about NSA's program to gather email/surface mail addresses from Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Hotmail.
The NSA has not been authorized by Congress or the special intelligence court that oversees foreign surveillance to collect contact lists in bulk, and senior intelligence officials said it would be illegal to do so from facilities in the United States. The agency avoids the restrictions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by intercepting contact lists from access points “all over the world,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program. “None of those are on U.S. territory.”