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Spy Agencies Monitoring Nearly 200 Million Text Messages Every Day

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The USA's spy agencies may have been routinely recording text messages sent by mobile networks, according to the latest documents released by the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

It is being claimed that the NSA collected nearly 200 million text messages per day by trapping into the mobile networks, using the data to track issues such as locations of the sender, who messages are being sent to and even credit card details.

A joint investigation between The Guardian and the UK's Channel 4 News is based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The project, code-named Dishfire is said to collect "pretty much everything it can", according to documents from the UK's own spy agency, GCHQ.

They describe tapping into the SMS platform as a "goldmine to exploit" and was collecting an average of 194 million messages per day starting back in April 2011.

Dishfire collects not just the contents of the text message, but also the more useful for the spies, the metadata about the message, such as where it was sent from, to whom and which networks were involved in processing it.

Use of the metadata could enable the UK spy agency to avoid seeking a formal court order which would normally be needed if they want to read the contents of the text message itself.

Vodafone told Channel 4 News they were "shocked and surprised" by the revelations.

The Group's privacy officer, Stephen Deadman said that "We're going to be contacting the Government and are going to be challenging them on this. From our perspective, the law is there to protect our customers and it doesn't sound as if that is what is necessarily happening."

The NSA has confirmed that Dishfire does exist and that it collects SMS data, but says that it complies with US laws on data interception about US citizens. Those laws of course don't apply to foreigners.

On the web: The Guardian

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Tags: nsa  sms  text message