The shockwaves from the NSA PRISM spy scandal continue to be felt, as The New York Times revealed this weekend that the NSA has used Facebook to create “sophisticated graphs” of some American citizens’ social connections. The Times, which obtained the new information from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, says that the NSA can track people’s locations, the time stamps of their posts and even with whom they associate on the site.
For its part, the NSA claims to only track users online for foreign intelligence purposes. However, the lack of transparency regarding how much data Facebook has been forced to hand over to the agency remains troubling.
“All of NSA’s work has a foreign intelligence purpose,” a spokeswoman for the agency told the Times. “Our activities are centered on counterterrorism, counterproliferation and cybersecurity.”
The latest documents reveal that the NSA is using the metadata gathered online to create a comprehensive and easily accessible database for NSA intelligence experts to reference. With a close analysis of online social interactions, phone calls and email communications, these experts can parse out the location of a person and even clues about their friends or religious affiliations. These tools aren’t too different from tracking suspects the old fashioned way, but the methods the NSA has used to get user data feels decidedly invasive anyway.