NSA harvested 200 million texts a day, investigation finds

The NSA is capable of collecting and storing almost 200 million text messages a day from around the world, say reports

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is capable of collecting and storing almost 200 million text messages a day from around the world, say reports based on leaked documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of text messages was revealed by an investigation by the Guardian and Channel 4 News based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The database of text messages collected in operation "Dishfire" enables the NSA to extract data on people’s travel plans, contact networks and financial transactions.

The documents reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database, in use until at least late 2012, to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications of UK citizens.

But the NSA told the BBC that Dishfire stored "lawfully collected SMS data" and denied that the agency’s collection of data is arbitrary and unconstrained.

In a statement, GCHQ said all of its work is carried out in “accordance with the strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate and that there is rigorous oversight."

The NSA also said its activities were "focused and specifically deployed against - and only against - valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements."

The NSA said text data of US residents may be "incidentally collected", but  "privacy protections for US persons exist across the entire process.

"In addition, NSA actively works to remove extraneous data, to include that of innocent foreign citizens, as early as possible in the process.”

On 17 January, US President Barack Obama is set to announce changes to the US electronic surveillance programmes, based in part on a review of NSA activities by a White House panel.

The White House said Prime Minister David Cameron had been briefed on the review.

An alliance of US technology firms has called for reforms, claiming that some of the techniques developed by the NSA undermine global confidence in US products, including cloud services.

The firms are concerned that public loss of trust in technology will hurt their businesses, and are calling on governments to help restore that trust.

Obama is expected to support the creation of a public advocate to argue in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secretive bench that approves the bulk records collections, according to details leaked to US media by the White House.

He is also expected to extend some privacy protections to foreigners, including more oversight on how the US monitors foreign leaders, and limit how long phone information is kept.

But, according to the BBC, Obama is not expected to take the mass collection of phone data out of the hands of the NSA, as the panel recommended, instead leaving that question to Congress.

Read more on Privacy and data protection

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

In a modern economy your medical records, police data, bank transactions, phones, movies, TV, PC, printer and even your fridge and car are all connected to the internet. Big multi-nationals and banks often know where and when you spend your money, browse, what you eat and what advert is best to show when you open a web page.

We have all naturally grasped the fact that "privacy" has changed, that a mobile phone or credit card means we can be tracked. We not only understand the need for security, but the risks of phishing, scamming and viruses.

Things have changed and our "need" for privacy REQUIRES us to release more privacy so that we can be better protected. We are often forced into reactive privacy, whereby we prosecute when our data is used against us, rather than unplugging everything and climbing into a box.

In todays world the government must access data and use it to protect us, however there must be a rigorous legal system that ensures a balance. All our medical records, transactions, power and service infrastructure and defence information is electronic, so we need to police the system to TRY keep it secure, and that is a monumental job with rapidly advancing systems and technology.

We can all see a little logic in Snowden's actions, but we also understand that encouraging such actions would not only reduce our privacy, not only put the lives of people that work to protect us in danger, not only put our own lives in danger, but ultimately prevent us using new technology because of its dangers.


I believe the NSA system of collecting data as an historical record which can be, with appropriate legal protocols, later mined to provide evidence against illegal activity or terrorism as a VALUABLE asset.

We do not know which countries are spying on each other, so this is always hypocritical, however any revelations should always be addressed because our relations with other countries are of the greatest importance in todays connected world.


I Love Text Messages It affects more in the field of speech and thank you