Did the NSA experiment with location gathering tools?

NSA-Building

Sheesh. As if the NSA wasn’t already in deep enough manure with the American public over information leaked regarding controversial homeland surveillance tactics. The New York Times is reporting that the NSA has, in fact, gone a bit further with data gathering tactics than they let on.

The agency continues to deny that they’ve ever used the location data from mobile phones to track the location of American citizens, but a draft answer written for national intelligence director James Clapper seems to suggest they’ve at least experimented with the idea.

It started in 2010, with the national security body reportedly receiving samples of data from towers to test their ability to analyze and process the format in which the data was received. It happened again in 2011. The draft then went on to ensure that the data was not used for any other purposes, including being analyzed and processed for actual purposes of intelligence gathering.

There was no mention of how many Americans’ information was subject to this secret experiment, nor do we know if the NSA still has any of the data it gathered. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon suggest there’s more to know about the whole ordeal than the government is willing to make public.

The topic of civil liberties and which ones we have reasonable expectations of have been hot in this particular area as of late. Although these smartphones are tricked out with location-tracking information (not only to help users in their day-to-day life, but for carriers to help improve their service, emergency services to better serve those in need, and more), a lot of people are of the opinion that a general expectation of privacy is to be expected under the words outlined in the fourth amendment.

Indeed, civil liberties should be respected and Americans should have the right to know what their data is being used for. To say you shouldn’t expect privacy in the digital age is to willingly give up a right that you, as an American citizen, have been entitled to.

To those people, I ask — why not give up your first amendment rights? Or second amendment? Or the rights outlined in the entirety of the Bill of Rights? Where do we stop and ask ourselves “how much is too much?”

I want a smartphone that can help me get to where I’m going, but not if it’s going to help the government track me down at will (even if I don’t have anything to hide). Let’s hope these “experiments” didn’t evolve into something much more substantial than it sounds.

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  • supremekizzle

    Micro$oft is in bed with the NSA. The Xbone is going to be their personal portal into your living room. PS4 ftw!!!

    • Anthony Tyson

      Guess it’s a good thing I have nothing to hide.

      • Diet Dr. Phat [17,000+ posts]

        I’m sure the Jews felt the same way in Nazi Germany

        • Cesar Ortiz

          You made by day .

      • RussianDroid

        “So y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband cause they’re rapin’ everybody out here.” – Antoine Dodson

        • Cesar Ortiz

          hide yo kidddddsssss

    • http://www.phandroid.com Quentyn Kennemer

      Did you really just find a way to turn this into an Xbone vs PS4 argument?

      • supremekizzle

        Yessir.

  • Dan Fryling

    The government is just flat out to big for it’s own britches. Anyone that thinks they won’t abuse the data they collect is naive.

  • Christopher Robert

    After reading this article maybe we should de-fund the NSA to make our budget work so we can get the government back up and running.

  • Chimphappyhour

    Pffft! I don’t even need to read that article. I can tell you, if they can dream it, they have at least tried it. They’ve probably also looked into location sharing services guided munitions. :P

  • JevyJav

    3 weeks ago they apparently had enough money to bomb and overthrow the sovereign nation of Syria while continuing to run guns to its enemies. This week they claim they’re scrapping up funds just to deliver mail… Lol u.s. government you’re a scumbag.

  • Andrew

    What people never seem to realize, is that the government isn’t doing any of their “Privacy Invasion” just to look at what were doing, like a nosy neighbor. They are doing it for the greater good of us. When car companies and OnStar offer GPS tracking so you can find where your vehicle is, if it is stolen, nobody cares. This is literally the same concept. The only reason they do things that may invade your privacy is because they want whats best for us.

    • Big_EZ

      I really hope you just forgot to add the sarcastic tone.

    • rabidhunter

      I believe it’s up to We the People to decide what’s best for us. It shouldn’t be up to Big Brother to decide what’s best for us. Here’s a fall reading list for you… 1984 & Aniimal Farm by Eric Blair (A.K.A. George Orwell), A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

      • Jason Crumbley

        We the People elect Big Brother. I’m still unhappy that Bush signed this into law, and I’m unhappy that Obama continued his policy.

      • AndroidProfit

        Are you SERIOUSLY quoting BOOKS OF FICTION to back up your position?

      • AndroidProfit

        I think you should educate yourself on what these programs are designed to accomplish and the good they have done. Maybe if there weren’t TERRORISTS communicating within your country these programs wouldn’t be needed. Thankfully a VAST MAJORITY of the people within the NSA want nothing more than to protect our country.

        The amount of BASELESS PARANOIA spreading on the internet by people who are too stupid or blinded by their hatred of the government to perform simple fact checking is astonishing. You have conspiracy theorists polluting the internet with claims based on anecdotal evidence. Sad.

        • rabidhunter

          Works of fiction, yes. Based in parts of truth, perhaps. Just look at Jules Vern, his writings were works of fiction; however, he was a visionary. Much of what he wrote about became fact.

          The truth is that, even though they are works of fiction, they are based on human nature and observations which are based on fact.

          Just a history lesson though, take a look at Nazi Germany. What happened there? That’s historical fact. It’s not just some make believe thing. Little by little, Hitler’s regime took over. It was the blind and ignorant, such as yourself that just let it happen. It was the blind and ignorant such as yourself who let a madman take over and murder millions.

          And all because they let him do it. They let him take over until it was too late and there was no going back. Sir, I believe that it is people who are outraged about this that are those with vision and sight. It is you who are blinded by the zeitgeist, blinded by ignorance and pacifism.

          That’s how tyrants start. They start out benevolent looking, saying, “We’re here to protect you from the bad guys.” Then little by little they chip at your rights until you’re either a drone or the bad guy. That’s history, that’s human nature, that’s what the BOOKS OF FICTION are warning against. But you’re too much of a tool, a mindless drone.

          • AndroidProfit

            Nothing but hyperbole and anecdotal statements. Why don’t you state your position and defend it with FACTS AND EVIDENCE instead of the same regurgitated BS that conspiracy theorists have been posting for years

          • rabidhunter

            Why don’t you support your blind arrogent statments with fact. Like I said, Nazi Germany is not fiction, it is fact. Not hyperbole or anecdotal statements. Next, we’ll engage in Prism which is fact. Now we’ll look at the article on which we are commenting. Also fact. We’ll start there. Now you go, the burden of proof is on you. Prove that the government is innocent and just trying to protect us.

          • AndroidProfit

            this is becoming very painful. People are innocent until proven guilty not the other way around. But this is conspiracy theorist playbook 101. throw a bunch of outrageous statements out there and clean people are guilty without a shred of evidence or very circumstantial anecdotal evidence.

          • rabidhunter

            Your’re making it more painful. The government has already proven that it isn’t innocent. You still haven’t sufficiently provided proof otherwise.

          • AndroidProfit

            LOL! You win Cartman.

          • Nick V

            What conspiracy? The government has already admitted to it. There is no conspiracy. How about the IRS Targeting conservative groups? Not a theory, they admitted it. How about the NSA going after reporters who don’t like Obama? Not a conspiracy.

            The use of the word “Conspiracy” is used too much to try and denounce the conservatives, or those who want the country to return to it’s roots. Keep using it, Commie, and we will see who is right in the end.

          • AndroidProfit

            LOL! Commie! LOVE IT!

    • JevyJav

      ummm I think you meant to type “them” right? whats best for THEM.

      • Luxferro

        Them – power hungry, world ruling egomaniacs. Our government. At least we still have freedom of speech, for now… :)

    • AndroidProfit

      There are a ton of paranoids on this site so THANK YOU in advance for getting them all riled up!!!!!

    • Luxferro

      You can’t trust the government to “know whats best for us”, when they can’t even manage their debt or run this country efficiently. Circumventing laws they are supposed to follow sure seems trustworthy…

      It has nothing to do with keeping secrets from them, and more to do with having a system of checks and balances. They are just doing whatever the hell they want to in secret. That doesn’t work for people who think for themselves.

    • Nick V

      Big difference between Car Companies and Corporations vs The Government. When you sign up for OnStar, you agree to their being able to track you in need. When you buy a computer, cell phone, or other internet based device, there is no contract you sign that the Government is going to be monitoring you.

      This is my biggest issue with the defenders of this type of invasionistic (Yeah, I made it up) control of the people.

  • oldtaku

    ‘continues to deny that they’ve ever used the location data from mobile phones to track the location of American citizens’

    That’s because they’ve redefined ‘track’ to mean ‘dropped a nuclear bomb on’ or something like that. Like they redefined ‘collect’ so they can deny they collect anything while collecting everything.

  • NIGHTSCOUT

    So here’s what I understood: If you’re EXPERIMENTING with violating the constitution, then it’s perfectly legal. O_o

  • Nick V

    Thank you for those last three paragraphs. That is very important, and more people should be proactive in their government and their decisions that affect every generation that proceeds it.

    Off my horse, and I must say, a great article.