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NSA Built Secret Social Network To Spy On Americans

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How many social networks do you use today? If you’re like most Internet users, you at least have a Facebook and Twitter account. After that, you might also hop onto Google+, Instagram, Vine or Pinterest. If you really want to push your social hipster cred, you might even still rock a MySpace profile. Regardless of your social network allegiances, you all also belong to a social network that you don’t even know about.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the NSA had started to build a social network in 2010 that could graph any American’s online social connections with the data it collects through its various programs like PRISM. Think of it like Facebook’s Open Graph, but it maps a person’s connections with other people through their online communications.

So, why does the NSA need a tool like this? It can already snoop on Americans’ online activities and emails. According to the report, which came from documents obtained by Edward Snowden, the government did this so it could “conduct large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness.”

Excuse me? Did I just read that right? The NSA, an agency that is required by law to check whether or not a target is a non-U.S. person, uses this system to bypass such a requirement. What’s worrisome is that this analysis tool has been available for some time, but it could only be used on foreign communications at first over fears that it may violate Americans’ privacy. That fear was thrown out the window in 2010 when the agency started to use the same tool on Americans.

Now we know that the NSA is targeting Americans with its social graph tool, but what kind of information is the agency using to build these graphs? According to the leaked documents, the NSA pulls communication data from public and commercial sources alongside information like bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information. It even pulls from property records and tax data to create a massive web of your personal and probably not so personal connections.

A leaked slide, courtesy of The New York Times, shows what that web looks like:

NSA Built Secret Social Network To Spy On Americans And Foreigners

Like with every other revelation, the NSA was given the chance to explain itself. In this case, a spokesperson for the agency said that “all data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.” That’s all well and good, but as Techdirt’s Mike Masnick points out, the NSA’s use of the word “justification” gives them broad permissions to spy on Americans. In other words, it doesn’t need a concrete foreign target to spy on Americans anymore. It just needs to have a hunch.

I don’t know about you, but a hunch doesn’t exactly sound like a solid enough justification to me. Even so, that’s not going to stop the agency. What can stop it are the numerous pieces of legislation moving through Washington, but who knows when or if those bills are going to get off the ground.

NSA Built Secret Social Network To Spy On Americans
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  • Hmm

    It is all about the American people and controlling America. Doesn’t everyone get it yet? Are we that brainwashed in this nation?

    The events of 9/11 had nothing to do with terrorism. It was all about stopping the country from falling into a depression (people forget the economy was tanking the two years prior to 9/11), use as a pretext to War, and for the ruling elite to gain control over the masses that exist here in this country and throughout the world.

    Just read the Patriot Acts. Read them!!! It does not impact terrorists abroad — it impacts everyone within our country. It impacts Americans. Look at your communities and just use the common sense that God gave you. There are so many high value targets in this country that are not even guarded. Literally not guarded. If there was this great terrorist presence, we would be having attacks every day of the year. That simply has not happened and of the “terrorist” incidents we have had since 9/11 — the perpetrators are never really heard from or in many cases, have many links back to our own government.

    The funny thing is that I am not a “conspiracy theorist” and in fact, I used to bleed red, white, and blue. All of this is very shocking to me and really has left me disillusioned. However, it is impossible to deny that we have been lied to repeatedly since 9/11. Nothing is as it seems.

    Wake up America. It is all about us.

  • JT Reynolds

    Would you be even a little surprised if NSA’s had their own SPIES GONE WILD video to justify their actions? Their argument is “Trust us. We’re hunting terrorists, so we don’t need no stinking 4th Amendment.”
    Now, it’s clear they’re going to keep doing it anyway. It’s naive to think they’re going to stop. So far, the only solution to keep your stuff safe from prying eyes is to get a private cloud, like a Cloudlocker (www.cloudlocker.it) that works like a cloud service but stays at home where they still need a warrant to get it.

    • Well

      Who are we kidding — they don’t need warrants. The FISA courts did not turn down one request for a “warrant”.

      Don’t we get it? They are making a file on every man, woman, and child in America. Right now, if your child is on a particular website, they know it. By the time your child is 18, they will literally have a composite sketch of your child’s life and this one day, will be used against them.

      Forget the notion of “show me your papers”…. it is now all virtual.

  • http://www.computeranswersusa.com Aaron Bann3r

    Americans need privacy while computing online, the same way Edward Snowden uses his personal laptop to avoid NSA and CIA surveillance.
    ComputerAnswersUSA website offers encrypted security laptops and flash drives to avoid surveillance hacking and viruses.

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