HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – When news first broke that the National Security Agency was collecting huge amounts of metadata from American phones, a lot of people shrugged it off.
Maybe they shouldn’t have.
According to some researchers, metadata could actually reveal a lot about you and your activities.
National Security Agency leaders have argued the agency’s surveillance programs pose no real threat to Americans, because they simply collected metadata – things like phone numbers dialed or length of call. They’re not actually listening to conversations.
Some computer scientists though, aren’t convinced.
Jonathan Mayer, a PhD student at Stanford University, told CBS News partner CNET
there would be “quite a lot you could learn about the ordinary american.”
Mayer and his partner used an Android app called “Metaphone” to study phone records of volunteers.
“We began by ID’ing the organizations associated with the phone numbers in our dataset,” Mayer explained. “We did that primarily by using phone books provided by Yelp and Google. [They were] totally public, totally easy to access.”
Using Facebook’s phone directory feature, people search services and more, 90% of phone numbers were quickly identified. That allowed researchers to easily tie phone users to the establishments they contacted – whether a firearms dealer, religious group or health services provider.
The U.S. House recently passed a bill to end the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata in the country but the bill still needs Senate approval.