A German news weekly, Der Spiegel, has revealed that the US National Security Agency is able to access user data from all major smartphones like iPhones, Blackberry and Android devises.
According to the magazine, there are internal documents showing that the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have set up dedicated teams for each type of phone as part of their effort to track down suspected terrorists.
The magazine reports that data obtained include contacts, call lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information. It’s not indicated that the NSA is conducting mass surveillance of phone users but rather that these techniques are used to eavesdrop on specific individuals.
The article doesn’t explain how the magazine obtained the documents, which are described as “secret.” But one of its authors is Laura Poitras, an American filmmaker with close contacts to NSA leaker Edward Snowden who has published several articles about the NSA in Der Spiegel in recent weeks.
The documents outline how, starting in May 2009, intelligence agents were unable to access some information on BlackBerry phones for about a year after
the Canadian manufacturer began using a new method to compress the data. After GCHQ cracked that problem, too, analysts celebrated their achievement with the word “Champagne,” Der Spiegel reported.
Snowden’s revelations have sparked a heated debate in Germany about the country’s cooperation with the United States in intelligence matters.
On Saturday, thousands of people in Berlin protested the NSA’s alleged mass surveillance of Internet users. Many held placards with slogans such as “Stop watching us.”
Separately, an incident in which a German police helicopter was used to photograph the roof of the American consulate in Frankfurt has caused a minor diplomatic incident between the two countries.