Angry Birds brought into surveillance row

By James Riches topicIcon Internet News

More Snowden leaks suggest Angry Birds is targeted for user data

UK and US intelligence agencies have defended themselves after more leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested they collect user data from mobile apps such Angry Birds.

Secret documents from the GCHQ and NSA show personal information such as location, age, gender, postcode, internet history, contacts, education, marital status, sexual orientation and potentially even private images could be acquired.

As with previous Snowden leaks, these claims were published in the Guardian and the New York Times, who assert that British and American authorities have been enhancing their ability to take information from apps since 2007.

The scale of these operations are unconfirmed, and the amount of information available would depend on how detailed a user's profile was.

Angry Birds is the most popular app of all time, achieving 1.7 billion downloads since it was first released by Rovio in 2009. The Finnish company has denied any knowledge of this information being gathered.

US tech giants reach surveillance compromise

Both the GCHQ and NSA have defended their activities. GCHQ said that, while they did not comment on intelligence matters, their processes were "carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework that ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate".

Meanwhile, the NSA said it was only concerned with data related to "valid foreign intelligence targets".

In an effort to increase transparency, the US justice department has reached a compromise with five leading tech companies that will allow them to release certain details of government information requests.

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Yahoo were among eight companies (alongside AOL, Apple and Twitter) that previously campaigned for the right to inform users when the government came to them with requests for data.

Under the terms of the compromise, they will now be able to share how many requests they have received, how many customers were affected by this and give some idea as to the nature of the data required.

However, if these companies release new technology or communication methods they cannot discuss government surveillance practices surrounding these innovations for two years. They must also keep information about national security orders quiet for six months before sharing the details with users.

Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword, said: "The latest twist in this saga is an intriguing one. With so many people using Angry Birds and other smartphone apps, it is possible that more people than ever will become concerned about the issue of surveillance."

"It also seems as it seems there is now some cooperation between the intelligence agencies and tech companies, and it remains to be seen how well this will work in practice."