US & UK spies 'able to access personal data via phone apps'

US and British intelligence agencies are able to gain access to personal data from smartphone apps including Angry Birds and social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, according to documents taken by ex-US spy contractor Edward Snowden.

GCHQ: 'We do not comment on intelligence matters'

Responding to reports that UK and US intelligence agencies have been developing capabilities to take advantage of smartphone applications to gather users' private information, a spokesman for British intelligence agency GCHQ told the Guardian:

It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.

– GCHQ spokesman

Read: British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook'

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US 'only interested in collecting data on possible threats'

White House spokesman Jay Carney said US surveillance agencies were only interested in collecting data on people considered a threat to the United States.

Mr Carney told a regular White House news conference:

To the extent data is collected by the NSA [National Security Agency] through whatever means, we are not interested in the communications of people who are not valid foreign intelligence targets, and we are not after the information of ordinary Americans.

Read: British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook'

GCHQ 'would not confirm or deny programme exists'

British intelligence agency GCHQ "would not confirm of deny the existence of the Squeaky Dolphin" monitoring programme, according to NBC News.

A spokesperson for the agency said GCHQ's work was "carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework”.

File photograph of British intelligence agency GCHQ.
File photograph of British intelligence agency GCHQ. Credit: Press Association

This "ensure[s] that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee", the spokesperson added.

Read: British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook

Web monitoring programme 'could spy on individuals'

The "Squeaky Dolphin" monitoring programme said to have been utilised by British intelligence agencies was not intended to spy on individuals, but it could be done, cyber-security experts told NBC News.

Someone types on a computer keyboard.
The documents were released by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The experts claimed the documents released by Edward Snowden show GCHQ had to have been either physically able to tap the cables carrying the world’s internet traffic or able to use a third party to gain physical access to the massive stream of data.

Once the information has been gathered, intelligence agencies have the ability to extract some user information as well, they added.

Read: British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook'

US and UK agencies 'exploit leaky apps for intelligence'

US and British intelligence agencies have plotted ways to gather data from Angry Birds and other smartphone apps that "leak" users' personal information onto global networks, the Guardian reported, citing documents obtained from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The report claims Angry Birds was one of the apps targeted by the NSA and GCHQ. Credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), had tried to exploit "leaky" smartphone apps that could disclose users' locations, age, gender and other personal information, according to the newspaper.

Read: British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook'

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British spies 'able to snoop on YouTube and Facebook'

British intelligence agencies have the capacity to monitor social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube by tapping into the cables carrying the world's internet traffic, according to documents obtained by NBC News.

The documents, reportedly taken from the US National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden, show British spies demonstrated a pilot programme to their US counterparts in 2012.

The programme, called "Squeaky Dolphin", was able to monitor YouTube in real time, collect addresses and some other user information.

According to the “Psychology A New Kind of SIGDEV [Signals Development] presentation, the Government was also able to take part in “broad real-time monitoring of online activity” of URLs “liked” on Facebook, Blogspot/Blogger visits and Twitter.