How the NSA uses Angry Birds to collect data about you

And you thought Angry Birds was just a fun game.
Credit: Provided

The National Security Agency has been monitoring Angry Birds users, it emerged this week.

How can intelligence agencies gather information about you from your mobile games, and what do they know? Metro spoke with Vicente Diaz, a senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Did it surprise you to hear that the NSA gathers data from Angry Birds?

Not really. The information provided by these apps has been proven very valuable both for advertisers and developers, so it should be valuable for intelligence agencies, as well. Many games allow you to play with your contacts and friends, binding individuals into a network of people, pretty much like social networks. This can be valuable information for any intelligence agency.

How does it work?

The last version of Angry Birds asks permission to access things like location and SMS – apparently for advertisement purposes, as the app displays ads while playing. However, this can provide a third party with more information that you want to share, like where you are at this particular moment. All the in-game messages and game pals can also be a source of information similar to social networks. It’s not so scary when you’re just talking about one application, but this is just one example.

Imagine all the different permissions you are providing to all the apps in your mobile device, and how much the mobile is saying about you, your location, the people you talk to and what you say to them. What we see here is how apparently innocent features can be used for a very different purpose when gathered all together with a different objective in mind.

If users of Angry Birds and other games don’t want to be monitored, should they simply stop playing video games?

At this point there are no technical details available, but I understand Angry Birds does not provide an option allowing the user to stop sending data that Rovio later monetizes, in this case legitimately through advertisement. Then, the user has no way to play Angry Birds without the program sending this data, unless he or she plays disconnected from the Internet.

However, we shouldn’t blame Angry Birds for monitoring users, and not playing it won’t prevent users from being monitored. We don’t know how much data and how many apps are being monitored by intelligence services, but there are probably many of them.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.