Computer Business Review

NSA 'intercepted' private conversations of ordinary internet users

CBR Staff Writer

12:48, July 7 2014


Nine out 10 people intercepted were not the targeted terror suspects.

Most communications intercepted by the US National Security Agency as part of its mass internet surveillance programme were far more of ordinary internet users than of targeted terror suspects.

Only a few intercepted messages were a valuable source to the security agency while majority of them contained highly personal details of ordinary individuals, The Washington Post reported. Although the information of intensely personal nature was marked as useless, the agency still retained them.

Some of the private data included medical records, personal chat messages and photographs of children.

Of about 160,000 intercepted messages seen by the Post, more than 120,000 were instant message conversations, 22,000 were email conversations and about 4,000 messages were drawn from over 11,000 social accounts.

These communications were captured during President Barack Obama's first term in office, from 2009 to 2012.

The communications were intercepted using internet surveillance programmes such as Prism and Upstream.

The tracking program, however, has also successfully captured the conversations of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, in 2011 and Umar Patek, a suspect in the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Bali.

In 2013, the NSA tracked the communications of nearly 90,000 targets. Snowden's documents show that 9 out 10 people whose conversations were intercepted from 2009 to 2012 were actually not the targets.

Considering that the ratio is same even in 2013, it implies that the security agency has captured communications of over 800,000 people.

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