Have a cell phone/ Chances are the NSA knows where you are, and a lot more.
The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.Five billion records a day. What's different about location data, as the ACLU's Chris Soghoian points out in the story, is that you can't protect that information. Email can be encrypted and identities can be concealed online, but "the only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave." If you have and use a cell phone, you can't avoid having your location transmitted.
The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.
The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result. [...]
In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them. [...]
Some documents in the Snowden archive suggest that acquisition of U.S. location data is routine enough to be cited as an example in training materials. In an October 2012 white paper on analytic techniques, for example, the NSA’s counterterrorism analysis unit cites two U.S.-based carriers to illustrate the challenge of correlating the travels of phone users on different mobile networks. Asked about that, a U.S. intelligence official said the example was poorly chosen and did not represent the program’s foreign focus.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been warning about location tracking for months, and back in September directly asked NSA Director Keith Alexander whether this information was being collected, and Alexander said no, not under "the current program," referring to Section 215 of the Patriot Act. When Wyden pushed to determine whether the NSA had ever or planned to collect this information under any legal authority, Alexander wouldn't answer.
Wyden, along with Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) have an amendment to the defense authorization bill currently on the Senate floor that would force the U.S. intelligence agencies to disclose whether they have ever collected or developed plans to locate collection data for U.S. persons not connected to terrorist or suspicious activity.