Are You An Angry Birds Player? The NSA Might Just Be Spying On You

January 29, 2014  |  

You already know the National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring your online moves via such sites as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. But did you realize the agency was keeping track of your gaming activity on your smartphone as well?

Reporters at The New York Times and the investigative journalism site ProPublica uncovered new documents from the spy agency reveal that it and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, are able to get your personal data from phone apps. The game the agencies targeted most was Angry Birds.

The spy groups used a special code that was written just to spy on those who play that game. They extracted information about  age and gender and even the smartphone user’s sexual orientation and marital status from Angry Birds users. According to the game’s maker, Rovio, they were unaware of the intelligence snooping.

The NSA still maintains it “does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission,” as it said in a written response to The New York Times and ProPublica.

“Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in NSA’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process,” the agency added, noting that similar protections exist for “innocent foreign citizens.”

But if the NSA is watching Angry Birds players, then that’s a whole lot of people. Angry Birds, which debuted in 2009,  has been downloaded more than 300 million times. And people play Angry Birds 200 million minutes each day, found an AYTM survey. About a third (35  percent) of Angry Bird players are male. And it is most popular with 18-to-24 year olds, who come in at 33 percent of the game’s total users.

According to Chris Eng, the vice president of research at the application security company Veracode, apps developers can protect the privacy of their users. Eng told ABC News that developers can hide the info obtained from their apps.

Many apps “are communicating to servers without any encryption,” said Eng. “Apps that don’t encrypt everything in transit are open to eavesdropping.”

[via ABC News]

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