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Researchers Confirm: When NSA Watches Your Metadata, It Is Watching You

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, activists, americans, corruption, culture, dishonesty, education, ethics, freedoms, government, police, politics, rights, safety, society, spying on citizens )

- 1770 days ago -
Stanford researchers prove what civil liberties advocates have warned since NSA scandal broke


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Kit B (276)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:28 am
Photo Credit: Photo: Vasile Cotovanu / Flickr Creative Commons

Stanford University researchers have confirmed what civil liberties advocates have warned since the NSA scandal broke: metadata surveillance is a window to highly sensitive personal information, including medical issues, financial history, and even marijuana cultivation.

Two Stanford graduate students proved this by doing the snooping themselves. Since November, they have surveyed the phone records of 546 volunteers and consulted Yelp and Google Places directories to determine how much sensitive personal information metadata can reveal. Participants installed a “MetaPhone” app on their Android phones to enable the surveillance.

"The degree of sensitivity among contacts took us aback," wrote researchers Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler in an announcement of their findings published Wednesday. "We found that phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even in a small population and over a short time window."

Using phone metadata, the researchers inferred sensitive information about people's lives, including: neurological and heart conditions, gun ownership, marijuana cultivation, abortion, and participation in Alcoholics Anonymous. While participants consented to having their identities revealed, the researchers opted to keep them anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their findings.

As the researchers point out, this study directly contradicts the repeated assurance by President Obama that the NSA "is not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content."

They warn that the metadata they had access to is dwarfed by what the amount the NSA has access to. "The dataset that we analyzed in this report spanned hundreds of users over several months. Phone records held by the NSA and telecoms span millions of Americans over multiple years."

By: Sarah Lazare | staff writer | Common Dreams |

Ben O (135)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:36 am
And again I say; -NSA...get yourselves a life!!!

Sue M (79)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 10:36 am

Mitchell D (82)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 2:04 pm
No surprise, here.
Snowden really ought to be honored!

Vallee R (280)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 3:50 pm
well maybe Feinstein ( can't spell) has hit a nerve when enough people realize just how contradictory she is when she says the NSA can spy on us- but not her!

Lois Jordan (63)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 4:46 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. Everyone needs to read this important article. I believe this is a whole new industry that needs to disappear. The compilation and storage of our metadata is so wrong. I believe that if they're going to continue doing this....without oversight....that we should all have access to our own metadata. We pay taxes for this to happen, so we should at least be able to see it!

JL A (281)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 5:05 pm
Kudos to these researchers and did any one really doubt this was true?

Past Member (0)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 7:47 pm
And do these spooks touch themselves when spying on us :0)

Scott haakon (4)
Sunday March 16, 2014, 11:13 pm
People worry about the wrong thing. NSA has less much less than Google or any commercial data mining operation.
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