The United States’ spy agency is reportedly tracking hundreds of millions of mobile phones across the world and storing almost 5 billion records daily.
According to the latest document leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, provided to the Washington Post, the spy agency is tracking the movements of global individuals via their mobile phones and storing details on their whereabouts and contacts.
The agency has the ability to “track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable,” according to the report.
The NSA is using network cables in the US and overseas to gather information on global mobile phone users as part of foreign intelligence gathering initiatives, it said.
The agency collects the location data of mobile phone users from 10 signals intelligence designators, which collect data from telephone links that transfer traffic from one provider to another.
But the NSA claimed its gathering of location data was “incidental” and part of its efforts to target potential threats to the United States.
"There is no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States,” Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, told the Post.
The NSA collects more information that it needs in order to ensure it is able to capture the records it will ultimately draw intelligence from. According to the Post, the NSA has spent the last year and a half moving to a new processing system that gives it greater capacity to store and process data.