back to article Fancy a little kinky sex? GCHQ+NSA will know - thanks to Angry Birds

Some of the world's most popular smartphone applications are telling British and American intelligence agencies everything about you – from your location to your politics or whether you're part of the swinging set. That's according to classified documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The dossier, published …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I'm still alive and don't lose sleep for what I did because it was the right thing to do," he added.

    With nine+ million people on El Reg, one of them might be Mr. Snowden.

    Thank you sir.

    1. Wzrd1

      I'd install it too.

      There's one thing worse than disinformation, dysinformation.

      And I can be astoundingly difficult when I wish to be.

    2. Jim 59

      ...applications are telling British and American intelligence agencies everything about you – from your location to your politics or whether you're part of the swinging set.

      And even more shocking new research shows the pope is be a Catholic...

  2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Why don't the NSA just put out their own App?

    I'd install it.

    But not because I'm one of those ding-dongs that believes "If you've got nuttin' to hide..." etc. It's more subtle than that.

    1. Forget It

      Re: Why don't the NSA just put out their own App?

      That's like Winston Smith buying a HDTV - so Big-Brother could spy on him better.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Why don't the NSA just put out their own App?

        But 'twas all legal! Ingsoc has all the paperwork to prove it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why don't the NSA just put out their own App?

      It already has. WhatsApp makes message intercept *much* easier. Instead of having to co-opt telcos for SMS taps, they get it delivered on a US server.

      To me, it's one of the smartest global intercept programmes ever.

    3. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Why don't the NSA just put out their own App?

      I thought they did. It's called Google.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I thought they did. It's called Google.

        Shush!

        The rubes aren't supposed to know about that. If they figure out they've volunteered to use the most effective [redacted] data collection program ever ....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's the problem

    The intelligence agencies and the people they manage (the governments) seem to have forgotten that being within the letter of the law doesn't mean you're right and normally when someone falls back on "the things we're doing are within *xyz loosely written law*" it means they likely know what they're doing is morally and ethically wrong... bankrupt... corrupt... and probably downright evil.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Here's the problem

      being within the letter of the law doesn't mean you're right

      If it's not illegal it cannot be wrong; that's how they sleep soundly in their beds at night. They wilfully choose not to make any moral judgement on whether it is right. The legal test substitutes for a moral test.

      Once that's understood it becomes crystal clear how government ministers and the like can stand there, with straight faces, telling us that something others consider bad is the right thing to do and can genuinely believe that.

      1. Roo

        Re: Here's the problem

        "something others consider bad is the right thing to do and can genuinely believe that"

        "That depends on your definition of genuinely" to paraphrase the head knob of the NSA.

        Please note: An innocent tax paying citizen (ie: someone who is subject to the rule of law) would likely end up facing imprisonment or worse for perjury and/or treason for trying that stunt.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Here's the problem

      Nah. It's for the children; think of the children.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's the problem

        Nah. It's for the children; think of the children.

        So, what you're saying is that the children are the problem?

        Which suggests in turn that we need to remove the children from the equation...

    3. Magnus_Pym

      Re: Here's the problem

      Either they ignore morals and stay within the letter of the law and feel they are therefore justified or they break the law to do what is morally right and feel they are therefore justified. It's all good to the those with psychopathic tendencies who gain power and think the end always justifies the means.

    4. Elfo74

      Re: Here's the problem

      "being within the letter of the law doesn't mean you're right"

      So, from my old AD&D gaming days (I hate angry birds) that would make:

      NSA --> Lawful - Evil

      Snowden --> Chaotic - Good

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's the problem

        Probably more likely Neutral-good as chaotic good is more the "well sure 10 people died but I saved 11, now where's a good brothel" mentality.

        but yeah Lawful Evil for the security forces, the most dangerous kind of RPG enemy.

      2. fearnothing

        Re: Here's the problem

        NSA --> Lawful - Evil

        No, NSA -> Lawful Neutral.

        Lawyers are lawful evil.

  4. Jim Wilkinson

    Neurotic Firefox User

    Surely a user of a cross-plaform browser is aiming to be platform agnostic, right? But neurotic?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Neurotic Firefox User

      Who says I'm neurotic? Why are you all talking about me? It's perfectly normal to use Firefox isn't it? I'm so worried what people will think about me - especially as I've installed Firefox for a bunch of my friends. Now people will think the people I've installed it for are neurotic and then my friends will be annoyed with me because I made other people think they're neurotic and also think that I'm neurotic becuase I installed it and...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Neurotic Firefox User

        Since I changed to Chrome I am much more relaxed. I have nothing to fear. So I shall not fear. Becasue I have nothing to hide, Because I have nothing to fear, I have hidden nothing. I am much happier now that I have learned to relax and let go of my data. I love Big Brother.

        It's good to be alive in 1985!

        You silly, twisted boy you...

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Maybe the NSA/GCHQ should put out a jihad app....

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! You've just completed level 4 by recruiting a suicide bomber in 5 minutes, 37 seconds.

    To move to level 5, "Escape from the rendition squad!" you need to press "continue" within 10 seconds, so pay no attention to that black van pulling up behind you!....9....8...7....

    (Maybe they could call it "Angry Kurds"?)

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    A new kind of scratch monkey

    But the question is how logical is it that she's the only one who was monitored, how likely is it that she was the German person the NSA was watching?

    I misread that as "mounted", I hope I am not the only one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A new kind of scratch monkey

      seems like you're the only one

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: A new kind of scratch monkey

        Taking rendezvous with doctor Sigmund...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A new kind of scratch monkey

      Not Angie the Frump, surely.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dove from above

    "Internet Explorer users scored.......highest in.......conscientiousness"

    Yeah, right. Define "conscientious". 'Malleable'? 'Shit scared'? 'Users of Norton or McAfee (or - wait for it...wait for it...MSE'?)

    (Now, down-voters, we really want to see those fingers, we really want to see those fingers!)

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Dove from above

      Only one finger to see, though it's not one for polite company.

      Just ignore the wink.

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Dove from above

      I don't even know what value such information has to the intelligence services.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Dove from above

        C'mon... seriously? You really think they don't want to know who uses the exploding bird most often?!?

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

    Angry birds --> Mildly amusing game

    Angry birds + advertising code ---> 24/7/365 spy tool.

    Google spies on people for it's customers who are also advertising companies.

    Are we seeing a pattern here?

    1. qwertyuiop
      Facepalm

      Re: So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

      24/7/365 - so that will be seven years then (actually not quite seven years because of leap years)?

      24/7 = "all the time", 24/365 = "all the time", but 24/7/365 is just silly!

      </pedantry>

      1. Rosie Davies

        Re: So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

        Agreed. As any fule kno it should be 24/7/52.17857142857143.

        Rosie

      2. Piro

        Re: So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

        Yeah, that always gets on my nerves too.

        24/7/52 would be accurate.

        Edit: or, like the above, you could get into the tiny portions of the year which add up to leap years!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

          But why is it always 24/7 which is "24 divided by 7" so about three-and-a-half? Why not 24x7 ?

          I've always been perplexed by that.

          1. sparkiemj

            Re: 24/7 or 24x7

            24/7 is read as 24 by 7 as most people so that does make the meaning clear to most people ..

            24/7/365 is overkill n preferably should not be used ..

    2. Tom 13

      Re: So once again the advertising companies s**t over your privacy

      Yeah. I'm actually more upset with the company that introduced the vulnerability than the NSA. The NSA was only doing what came naturally. It was the idiot company that left the screen door unlocked.

  9. Dig

    Just monitoring you purchases

    Ready for whoever buys catcher in the rye.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Just monitoring you purchases

      It was mandatory reading at school. We had a whole box.

      1. Tom 13

        @Destroy All Monsters

        Zoom! Right over the head.

        I guess you missed the Mel Gibson movie.

    2. MeRp

      Re: Just monitoring you purchases

      After watching that movie, my friend discovered that she had several copies of that book (including one in her bed's headboard shelf), but she had never read it. It kind of freaked her out.

  10. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    So, of course...

    ... we're going to get full control over what data the Apps we install actually gets access to, aren't we?

    "Our pissy little game needs access to your e-mail, your location, your contacts list, your photographs, your fingerprints, your blood group..."

    "No, FUCK OFF!"

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: So, of course...

      "Our pissy little game needs access to your e-mail, your location, your contacts list, your photographs, your fingerprints, your blood group..."

      You missed the iris pattern and DNA sample.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: So, of course...

        I think that's deliberate omission, only because Apple hasn't implemented necessary phone sensors, yet.

        What, you thought only Android is suitable for spying?

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: So, of course...

          No, iPhones are pretty good for spying as well.

          As long as you're the NSA.

  11. Chairo
    Unhappy

    "The Angry Bird Seasons" app, sold currently in the Amazon appstore requires the following permissions:

    - Your location

    - Full Network access

    - Storage (SD card access)

    - phone status and identity

    - monitor network communication

    - development tools (test access to protected storage)

    - access to accounts

    I have no idea, if the game play is good or not. No way I would give a game such permissions without a good reason.

    Oh, and did I mention that is the "ad-free" version!

    I suppose their company slogan is something like "We make money, so why should we care"...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Stop

      Development tools? Good grief!

      I admit I'm several years out of date on Android, but if I saw an app asking for permission to use developer resources on a production device, I'd run a mile.

      If you're just skimming through, with limited knowledge of the system (as I currently would be), that just screams "SCAM!!!1111!!!!!ONE!!1ONE!!!" in twenty foot high iluminated letters!

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Some of those permissions are justifiable.

      Network access? Movies (not just for ads anymore)

      Storage? To record progress.

      Phone status? To pause on a call.

      Accounts? To sell the addons.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Remember the birds are very angry.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    The Fourth Amendment says: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    The Fifth Amendment says: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    Between these two amendments, there is no room for an NSA! They can claim the contrary all they want, and they can cite the Supreme Court as much as they please, but I can read well enough to understand what The Contitution of the United States intends! I say, that what they are doing violates the intention of our Founders.

    1. Wzrd1

      "They can claim the contrary all they want, and they can cite the Supreme Court as much as they please..."

      As much as you dislike it, the fact remains that the founding fathers desired the SCOTUS to decide what the law actually means.

      Regrettably, Scalia decided that the fifth amendment is a privilege in a recent decision.

      But, do what you want. Ignore case law. Enjoy our prisons.

      They're lousy with folks who think that they know the law, based purely upon an ill educated opinion on what the Constitution says.

      1. willi0000000

        @Wzrd1 04:51 GMT

        from supremecourt.gov: "... the Court's power of judicial review was not confirmed until 1803, when it was invoked by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison."

        that is when the supremes took the right to interpret. that right is not stated specifically in any part of The Constitution of The United States. some of the founders may have desired it but it was never included in the actual document.

        scalia and friends have cheapened this power by abusing it. there is much case law that must be corrected and might be. [if we survive]

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Billy Catringer

      Bwahahahahhahahahahhaha! (As we used to say back in Usenet days).

      The Twenty Eighth Amendment says: Now wash your hands.

      Have you not noticed, the rules don't apply to the government? Out of curiosity (being on the right hand side of the Atlantic) how is all this being received by the wider populace of the US? You have a government and its agencies drunk on their own unaccountability, and on the new opportunities for monitoring the masses, and the only two practical choices you have at the ballot box think this situation is just dandy. Is there mogadon in the drinking water, or something?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Between these two amendments, there is no room for an NSA!

      Well, I hate to ruin your charming naivety, but the US of A have federal laws that make it impossible those amendments are even considered when its government gathers data. As far as I can tell, the bit of the constitution that tried to protect its citizens from abuse by its own government (you, know, the reason they crossed the wet bit in the first place) appears no longer active, and you'll probably get slung in jail if you try to assert any of those rights. Only the right to arm bears remains, but that's because the government has got bigger guns anyway...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So to turn a phrase, the Constitution, on a whim, can become simply ink on a page. Well, in such a situation, there's no way to win, as the inevitable result would be abdication of government and resultant anarchy, where the average person is still not likely to win.

        1. Rick Giles
          Pirate

          The tree of Liberty

          "... the Constitution, on a whim, can become simply ink on a page."

          And when that actually happens, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laws of which country?

    How is it legitimate?

    Is Angry Bird available in UK and US only?

    Do we not have country specific App Stores which are supposed to respect local laws?

    Does tech companies have any right now to cry foul that Chinese government is forcing them for cuddling?

    And if the tech companies know their info gathering is snooped bye some specific countries and they are still wanting more, should not their local employees be subject to treason laws?

  14. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Smartphones

    Yesterday I was thinking of buying my first smartphone.

    Today I have changed my mind.

    It seems that I will have to wait a year and then investigate the security of an Ubuntu phone.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    And the worst part?

    Nobody really cares.

    Yes, including you fellow El Reg reader. Because which scenario is more likely: you now pull out your phone and make sure that you won't be accidentally running Google maps in the future or that you'll sit on the couch later this evening and tell your SO while playing Angry Birds (or whatever other game / app): "Did you know the NSA even added backdoors to stuff like this?"

    A side note; one of the best scenes (IMO) which so nicely displayed this was done in South Park when Mr. Garrison invented 'IT' ('The Entity', season 5). After protesting loudly about the way he and the other passenger were treated at the airfield the whole crowd agreed with him. "Come on everybody!", he shouted when leaving and the whole crowd shouted "yeah!" in agreement but of course stayed put to wait their turn in line to get their ticket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the worst part?

      I'm afraid (before reading these comments today) I did the latter, exactly as predicted.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Yet another reason *not* to have a "smart" phone.

    Title says it all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yet another reason *not* to have a "smart" phone.

      because they're not so smart after all.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Yet another reason *not* to have a "smart" phone.

      You can have a modern 'shiny-shiny' phone but:-

      1) just switch off all location services

      2) don't install any extra apps

      3) get rid of apps like Twatter and Facebook.

      4) Use the phone just for Phone calls and texting plus simple apps like calendars.

      5) Don't sync it with external systems under any circumstances.

      6) and a few more that I can't think of.

      Then start to monitor the traffic your phone sends over your wi-fi. you will seen see who it is 'phoning home' to and take appropriate action.

      Once you are happy with that then you can move about society with a shiny-shiny smartphone just like everyone else.

      Me? I'll keep using my Nokia 6310i until I can't get batteries for it any more.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet another reason *not* to have a "smart" phone.

        Remember that many dumb phones still have smart phone operating systems. You just don't have access to install your own choices on it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yet another reason *not* to have a "smart" phone.

        1) just switch off all location services

        Are you sure turning them off really turns them off?

        2) don't install any extra apps

        3) get rid of apps like Twatter and Facebook.

        No need, the ones built into the phone (you know, the ones you can't remove) run all the time whether you like it or not. Plenty of ammo for the MIB.

        4) Use the phone just for Phone calls and texting plus simple apps like calendars.

        That alone gives them plenty of information: location tracking (through cells if not GPS), and if they can sneak into your phone, they can read your calendar and correlate dates.

        5) Don't sync it with external systems under any circumstances.

        I don't think you can avoid that anymore. Either they'll require you to sync to use any smartphone and make the dumbphones too dumb to be practical, or they'll just sneak in and sniff all they want whether you sync or not.

        6) and a few more that I can't think of.

        Bet you for every other one you can think of after this, they already have at least two ways around it that no one can block, not even with custom code (because the exploits are probably in the essential chips powering the phones).

        Then start to monitor the traffic your phone sends over your wi-fi. you will seen see who it is 'phoning home' to and take appropriate action.

        Bet you they employ a whispernet that isn't tracked by the phone itself (see the hardware exploits previously). They may even be able to detect the silence brought by faraday cages and know to stay mum during those times.

        Me? I'll keep using my Nokia 6310i until I can't get batteries for it any more.

        Ever thought they could track you even with a phone that old? An exploit in the radio chip would've worked even on a dumb phone.

  17. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Siemens

    It's interesting that the NSA hacked Siemens, given that Stuxnet targets Siemens kit.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Siemens

      "It's interesting that the NSA hacked Siemens, given that Stuxnet targets Siemens kit." The Three-Letter-Agencies (allegedly) took a big interest in many German companies after the UN inspectors after the Gulf War identified them as illegally supplying many of the chemical components and manufacturing kit Saddam used for his chemical and biological weapon programs. Of course, I suspect that interest extended to any German politicians that may have helped the embargo-busting German companies avoid justice. I expect that is how the CIA found out about Iran's SCADA kit. Now, who mentioned Angela Merkel....?

    2. David Pollard

      Re: Siemens

      Didn't Siemens use their muscle to force the adoption of their protocols in the EU standards for industrial controller networks a decade or so ago?

      It might not be quite right to cast them as the innocent victim. As I remember it British firms which used a different approach to theirs were likely to be forced out of the market by the new rules that were forced through.

  18. AussieCanuck46

    I have a smartphone, but I leave it at home if I think I won't need it elsewhere.

    I've played Angry Birds, but only on my desktop computer without logging in to anything.

    What, are you bloody geniuses too bloody stupid to think of things I have?

    1. Semtex451 Silver badge

      It works better if you use an Aussie accent

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's an idea, discuss:

    The NSA do not monitor US citizen's activities as that would be illegal, only those of foreign nationals.

    GCHQ do not monitor UK citizen's activities as that would be illegal, only those of foreign nationals.

    The NSA may request records from their good friends at GCHQ when they need them.

    GCHQ may request records from their good friends at the NSA when they need them.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      This is in fact being done.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Malcolm Rifkind on Channel 4 News got himself worked up into a stew about how should he know what the codeword DISHFIRE means and how is he responsible for what a foreign alphabet agency hoovers up British texts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ-TCjnVvNc

      Unfortunately time ran out before he could be asked why he believes everyone already knew this was happening anyway so there was no need to talk about it or tell the public (and RIPA makes it a crime punishable by up to five years to talk about it) and why he's not getting equally worked up about the possibility of foreign equipment being installed on British soil which allows a foreign agency to slurp British texts.

      And that's before putting aside all the legal hoops that are being jumped through over just how friendly the two agencies are and the differerences between where metadata stops and where content starts and where the legal line is.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Rifkind on Channel 4 news

        "Malcolm Rifkind on Channel 4 News got himself worked up into a stew about how should he know what the codeword DISHFIRE means and how is he responsible for what a foreign alphabet agency hoovers up British texts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ-TCjnVvNc"

        Oh yes I saw this.

        Very combative. Very defensive. You'd never guess he was supposed to be scrutinizing the security services.

        You can tell he's a lawyer.

  20. Heisenberg

    No issues on iPhone?

    Seems that this is only an issue for Google/Android users then? Apple devices are mysteriously absent from any mention here...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No issues on iPhone?

      "Seems that this is only an issue for Google/Android users then?"

      What do you think? But even if you weren't cynical you could ask Der Speigel, who had an article just before Christmas reporting that the NSA had the iPhone completely cracked back in 2008. Do a search on Speigel iPhone Appelbaum.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Semtex451 Silver badge

    I'm always looking for the upside.

    But I can't see it.

    We don't have the efficiencies of a Big Brother State

  23. Amorous Cowherder
    Facepalm

    Photographer's Ephemeris

    They must have had a bloody field day with we photogs running about all over the countrylooking at odd places via Google Maps and in the middle of nowhere, checking the sunrise and moonrise times for our shots!

  24. Zot

    Android only?

    Other news channels, like the BBC and Sky, suggest it's an Android OS specific hack.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Android only?

      They don't want to upset their Apple paymasters.

      1. Zot

        Re: Android only?

        Who's thumbing down? LOL, it's what they said, not me!

        BBC:- " Another GCHQ report, in 2012, laid out how to extract information from Angry Birds user information from phones on the Android operating system."

        Sky news:- "A 2012 British intelligence report laid out how to extract Angry Birds users' information from phones using the Android operating system, according to The New York Times."

  25. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Boffin

    Nothing new here.

    Sorry, not a verifiable story, but one that I have heard from several different sources so probably has some grain of truth. Waaaaaaay back in the Nineties, the Mossad wanted to track coms between the PLO in Beirut and their operatives and sympathisers abroad. What they noticed was all those clean-living jihadis liked a bit of blonde pr0n, so they made a slightly-adapted version of the game Reversi (where you try to remove marbles from a board to reveal a nude lady) which included a dial-home feature if the game detected a modem. This they distributed through floppy disks sold by street vendors in the Palestinian camps in Beirut. At first it went brilliantly - they started receiving hundreds of modem callbacks from all over the Middle East. Then Europe. Then Asia and the North and South Americas. Then they realised the flaw in their strategy - pr0n has just about universal appeal, even to those that pretend it means nothing to them, and kids will trade games and pr0n with other kids even if they don't share the same ideologies.

    I suspect any program to collect data via Angry Birds will run the same issue of generating massive amounts of chaff even when it does provide a little wheat, especially as this is data the users are willingly giving to the marketing companies.

    1. Roo

      Re: Nothing new here.

      "I suspect any program to collect data via Angry Birds will run the same issue of generating massive amounts of chaff even when it does provide a little wheat, especially as this is data the users are willingly giving to the marketing companies."

      Agree, but on the other hand I wouldn't want to bet my way of life on that assumption.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Nothing new here.

      "I suspect any program to collect data via Angry Birds will run the same issue of generating massive amounts of chaff even when it does provide a little wheat, especially as this is data the users are willingly giving to the marketing companies."

      You appear to think this is some kind of targeted intelligence gathering operation aimed at specific people (as the Mossad operation would appear to have been).

      The only "target" definition in this situation is everyone.

      There is no chaff.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: John Smith IQ19 Re: Nothing new here.

        "....There is no chaff." If they wanted a sure wheat-free zone it would be found between your paranoid ears.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: John Smith IQ19 Nothing new here.

          Mattie, you really can be so very amusing when you try.

          Although you're more so when you're not.

          I'll take my "paranoia" and raise you a smug self satisfied complacency.

          Remember Mattie 6 lines from an honest man and they'll find something to hang you.

          Although I doubt honesty has ever really been a strong thing with you.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: John Smith IQ19 Nothing new here.

            Because everyone that disagrees with you just has to be lying? How open-minded - not!

    3. Tom 11

      Re: Nothing new here.

      What are you on about? Everyone knows that Angry Birds, just like a furrowed brow and low set ears is the unmistakable marker for a n'er-do-well!

  26. FormerKowloonTonger
    Trollface

    Heyyyyyyyy! Kiddies!

    Rejoice! Those pics of you wankin' yer weenie have gone viral [pun alert!] .......they're causing hilarity in unimagined circles in cubicles.....heh heh.

  27. Tiredashell

    When J. Edgar Hoover amassed personal data on everyone he could find it on, the establishment said he was doing a fine job protecting society. After his death, it was learned he was just a pervert. Maybe the NSA doesn't really need all the data they are collecting.

  28. trafalgar

    Isn't this just a big waste of tax payers money? There must be smarter and cheaper ways to catch the bad guys.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @trafalgar

      "Isn't this just a big waste of tax payers money? There must be smarter and cheaper ways to catch the bad guys."

      What actually makes you think this is the object of this exercise?

  29. JDX Gold badge

    Tinfoil aside...

    ...I work under the assumption anything I do online could probably be linked back to me by governments if they could be bothered. The fact this is proving to be true doesn't really surprise me, it just shows all those silly computer films from the 90s were actually bang on accurate ;)

    I do however find it fascinating from a techy point of view.

  30. Bernard M. Orwell

    Is it just me.....

    ...that finds the idea of the NSA collecting Intel via an app wherein little black birds are propelled at buildings to demolish the defences of the fat, greedy piggies to be more than a little ironic?

  31. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    code

    Just had a look into the piece of code published by the linked article, allegedly "A portion of the computer code in Burstly’s Software Development Kit".

    Quite funny what it does :)

  32. vahid

    @bronek

    unsure what is funny these guys are serious about making money from our misfortune of ads being shown..

    https://www.propublica.org/article/spy-agencies-probe-angry-birds-and-other-apps-for-personal-data

    Rovio drew public criticism in 2012 when researchers claimed that the app was tracking users’ locations and gathering other data and passing it to mobile ad companies. In a statement on its website, Rovio says that it may collect its users’ personal data, but that it abides by some restrictions. For example, the statement says, “Rovio does not knowingly collect personal information from children under 13 years of age.”

    The secret report noted that the profiles vary depending on which of the ad companies — which include Burstly and Google’s ad services, two of the largest online advertising businesses — compiles them. Most profiles contain a string of characters that identifies the phone, along with basic data on the user like age, sex and location. One profile notes whether the user is currently listening to music or making a call, and another has an entry for household income.

    Google declined to comment for this article, and Burstly did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Saara Bergstrom, a Rovio spokeswoman, said that the company had no knowledge of the intelligence programs. “Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned,” Ms. Bergstrom said, referring to the N.S.A. and the British spy agency.

    Another ad company creates far more intrusive profiles that the agencies can retrieve, the report says. The apps that generate those profiles are not identified, but the company is named as Millennial Media, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.

    In securities filings, Millennial documented how it began working with Rovio in 2011 to embed ad services in Angry Birds apps running on iPhones, Android phones and other devices.

    According to the report, the Millennial profiles contain much of the same information as the others, but several categories listed as “optional,” including ethnicity, marital status and sexual orientation, suggest that much wider sweeps of personal data may take place.

    A portion of the computer code in Burstly’s Software Development Kit — used by Angry Birds. This software was studied by GCHQ for intelligence value.

    Twitter Facebook Link

    Possible categories for marital status, the report says, include single, married, divorced, engaged and “swinger”; those for sexual orientation are straight, gay, bisexual and “not sure.” It is unclear whether the “not sure” category exists because so many phone apps are used by children, or because insufficient data may be available.

    There is no explanation of precisely how the ad company defined the categories or how accurate the information is. Nor is there any discussion of why all that information would be useful for marketing — or intelligence.

  33. vahid

    looks like i missed the top portion of the paragraph which explains that their money is not being made by genuine advertisement but simply by helping track you through innocent adverts back to nsa:

    In December, The Washington Post, citing the Snowden documents, reported that the N.S.A. was using metadata to track cellphone locations outside the United States and was using ad cookies to connect Internet addresses with physical locations.)

    In another example, a secret 20-page British report dated 2012 includes the computer code needed for plucking the profiles generated when Android users play Angry Birds. The app was created by Rovio Entertainment, of Finland, and has been downloaded more than a billion times, the company has said.

    so yes none of it is really funny its all serious shit designed to snoop on all of us in innocent ways and that has truely got to be the darkest part of it all, knowing that those oblivious objects on your screen are actually part of a bigger thing

    1. Bsquared

      @vahid Two good, thoughtful posts, thanks. It is nasty, serious shit, no question. But.....

      As far as I can tell from the article, and from what you've gleaned, NSA scarfs up the profiles from Angry Birds via Millenial's scumbag ad app. But this has to be seriously crappy, low-grade metadata. I mean I had Angry Birds on my Android phone for months, and never once clicked on any of the crappy ads (except that one with the donkey and the blonde Danish girl, and that was a mistake, Your Honour). What does Rovio or Millennial now know about my habits and lifestyle, other than I marginally prefer Angry Birds Star Wars to their other games, and that I have the attention span of an 8-yr-old on Red Bull?

      Or am I missing something? Does the Millenial adware hook into your browser and hoover up all those late-night pr0n-browsing sessions?

      As for location and Google Maps, meh.

      1) Does anyone seriously doubt that activating "track my Location" tells the entire WORLD precisely where you are? Christ, if Facebook knows it, the NSA knows it

      2) Everybody knows that LEOs can triangulate your whereabouts from a handset. I suppose this does make it easier for the agencies to track your movements back in time for a good long period.

  34. chrisp1141

    What about Google?

    I find it curious that more people aren't pointing this out: Everyone is outraged by all of this government spying, but we don't seem to have a problem with Google. I would argue that Google is much worse for our privacy than the NSA or other government spying agencies. For this reason, I advocate using privacy-based sites such as Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, HushMail, etc. We probably can't hide from the NSA, but we can hide from Google.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      "but we don't seem to have a problem with Google"

      Every second comment on El Reg is blaming Google for something, it sometimes seems to me.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC headline on the subject

    US and British spies 'get personal data from Angry Birds'

    Hardly news. Standard operating procedure for yonks - Mata Hari, Christine Keeler ...

  36. vahid

    @bsquared

    I am unsure the extent of interbindings from a given advert. Unsure if your read that entire article on the top ofy first post.

    So far as I understand to the ss an android is a gold mine.

    I presume using the adverts combined with other meta data from your other running applications helps trace you where ever you go.

    The game maker's have totally denied working with nsa etc.

    Personally I think there is a wide gaping hole in app policing on androids. Why does a game require privlalages to all aspects of my phone? If their not using those privalges are the third party adverts inheriting same privileges and doibg their dirty deeds using the cunning loophole.

    Personally google needs to be policing android apps and ensuring its os restricts wild access rights

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