Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Center for International Security and Cooperation Stanford University

A mobile phone simulating a call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel next to a tablet computer showing the logo of the National Security Agency (NSA) is seen in this multiple exposure picture illustration taken in Frankfurt October 28, 2013.
Photo credit: Reuters

December 11, 2013 - CISAC, FSI Stanford In the News

CISAC cyber fellow Jonathan Mayer uncovers reach of NSA dragnet

CISAC cybersecurity fellow Jonathan Mayer's new research with Stanford computer science graduate student Patrick Mutchler indicates the telephone dragnet by the National Security Agency is much bigger than believed. They note that the NSA's court-approved authority to analyze phone records allows the spy agency to pull in a large chunk of the American population with just one seed number.

His blog posting on his website, Web Policy, is based on crowdsourced phone metadata that they have collected from volunteers wiling to share their phone records from their Android smartphones. They discovered that between voicemail, spam robocalls and calling services such as Skype, many Americans are connected by a small set of phone numbers.

By some estimates, a single seed number could establish authority to query phone records for thousands of Americans. Other estimates have counted into the millions.

Several news organizations have written stories based on their research:


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Huffington Post reporters talk about the contentious findings in this video:

Topics: Cybersecurity | Institutions and Organizations | United States