Meet Boundless Informant: The NSA Tool That Watches The Entire Planet

Does the NSA have any secrets left? First there was PRISM -- the network that's collecting real-time data on Americans everywhere -- and now The Guardian has turned up "Boundless Informant" which is indexing surveillance and espionage metadata from the ENTIRE WORLD.

Where PRISM collects data, Boundless Informant is all about organising it. The system keeps take of surveillance metadata across the globe, indexing countries by how much metadata has been slurped from local phone and computer networks, according to the top-secret documents obtained by The Guardian.

Although it's no surprise that the NSA has something like this, the organisation has come out and said on multiple occasions that it isn't spying domestically and there isn't any metadata about US citizens in such a system that may or may not exist. The NSA has been reluctant to admit that this kind of comprehensive collection and indexing is even possible. Surprise surprise, it looks like none of those things are true.

As you can see in the image above, countries are ranked by colour. Green countries are the ones where the NSA has the least data. Yellow means there's more data, orange even more and red the most. This data doesn't include anything so specific as the content of particular emails or phone calls, but it does get pretty granular, including specific IP addresses. And that's usually enough to drill down to someone's approximate location.

The documents obtained by The Guardian describe the system this way:

The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country Other documents say it is designed to answer questions such as "What type of coverage do we have on country X" in "near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure."

It's yet another cat out of the NSA's apparently large bag. Only time will tell what else is in there just waiting to get out. [The Guardian]



    Well that's terribly undemocratic isn't it ?

    Oh, I think the NSA has PLENTY of secrets left Eric. Stuff that would curl your toes, suck the paint off your walls and give you horrific nightmares for the rest of your life.

    Last edited 09/06/13 3:59 pm

    Interesting how Germany is standing out on that map. Heck, they collect more intel there than in Russia. Though the Indians really get a hammering, seemingly being more of a focus than Russia and China combined. Combination of easy-to-penetrate networks and high value of data?

      Combination of them nearly officially harbouring identified terrorist organizations, and one of the largest internet using muslim populations in the world.

      (Though I love Indian people, personally!)

    Australia is dark green, all good.

      Our anti-information Koala network is working! All hail G.U.M.T.R.E.E!

    None of this is new. Go do a wikipedia search for ECHELON. Its been arround since the '60s. All thats changed is the ammount of data that needs to be processed.

    The ability to intercept communications depends on the medium used, be it radio, satellite, microwave, cellular or fiber-optic.

    If you call or fax into the US and the system sees "bomb", "kill", "President", "Nuclear" or any of thousands of words or word combinations, it is recorded and looked at by a different system to look for intent and such, looking at where its from and who it's to, and if it gets flagged, a person will look into it.

    None of this is new, it's just updated to match the new technology.

      Its the granularity that is new, and what some find "terrifying". Sure, that's always been the case - but now you aren't some random call someone somewhere will be listening to and hear your context and then move on with their life - it's a perminent record of all of that, with no human oversight on a per-note basis.

      A fitting example would be something like.. A muslim foreign immigrant working as a used car salesman who refers to old "bombs" he's selling to his overseas business partner (in his own language - say Indian in this example) in every email for 5 years. As an NSA agent 5 years on viewing that file at a glance, it's more likely quite more alarming than the reality of the situation.

      Thankfully, if anything, in that example it would more than likely just be used as a "hmm maybe we should investigate further", at which point they'd probably get even 1 of the emails translated and realise what they meant..

      I think people are imagining being ripped from their homes for last nights google search "how long to clear airport security at LAX?"

    I have an idea, we should have a world wide encrypt your email day. Everybody download a freeware crypto tool, use 512bit encryption, and each send a an email to all of our contacts throughout the world. This will keep even their supercomputers a little busy for a while :)

    The screenshot looks like it's using 2007 data. The question is how much has changed since then.

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