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NSA Constructs Social Profiles Of US Citizens

You’ve heard of PRISM and XKeyscore? Get ready for Mainway.

A couple of hours ago the New York Times put the newest nugget from Edward Snowden on line, in an article by NYT regular James Risen and Snowden confidante Laura Poitras. They begin:

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The program works by augmenting the phone and e-mail logs that we learned in June the NSA collects with “material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data.” The part that connects phone and e-mail data is called Mainway.

The program has been live since November 2010, following a policy decision in the last year of the Bush administration to stop restricting such information correlating to foreigners, which had in turn followed a Supreme Court decision denying constitutional protection to metadata.

To be sure, an NSA spokeswoman insisted for the article that “All data queries must include a foreign intelligence justification, period,” whatever that might mean.

Using these correlations the NSA collates people into 94 “entity types” and networks into 104 “relationship types.”

I will refrain from comment. For the rest, read the article.

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E. F. Beall

E. F. Beall