The Switchboard: NSA is collecting 5 billion cellphone geolocation records a day


(philcampbell / Flickr)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Cyber war technology to be controlled in same way as arms. "Western governments are close to an agreement that would put sensitive cyber security technologies on the same footing as regular armaments under one of the world’s main agreements on weaponry export control," the Financial Times reports. "If successful, revised proscriptions under the Wassenaar Arrangement, which has regulated exports of military hardware and 'dual-use' equipment since 1996, will almost certainly be followed quickly by an EU-wide clampdown on sensitive cyber technologies, said people familiar with the talks."

NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show. "The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world," according to the Post's own Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani. "The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones 'incidentally.'"

Someone’s been siphoning data through a huge security hole in the Internet. "Earlier this year, researchers say, someone mysteriously hijacked internet traffic headed to government agencies, corporate offices and other recipients in the U.S. and elsewhere and redirected it to Belarus and Iceland, before sending it on its way to its legitimate destinations," according to Wired. "The attackers initiated the hijacks at least 38 times, grabbing traffic from about 1,500 individual IP blocks — sometimes for minutes, other times for days — and they did it in such a way that, researchers say, it couldn’t have been a mistake."

Microsoft moves to assure international business customers on spying. "Microsoft Corp pledged late Wednesday to fight in court against any attempt by U.S. intelligence agencies to seize its foreign customers' data under American surveillance laws," Reuters reports, "one of a series of steps aimed at reassuring nervous users abroad."

Apple, China Mobile sign deal to offer iPhone. "China Mobile Ltd. has signed a long-awaited deal with Apple Inc. to offer iPhones on its network, a person familiar with the situation said, an arrangement that would give the U.S. technology giant a big boost in the world's largest mobile market," according to the Wall Street Journal. "The rollout of iPhones on the world's largest mobile carrier by users, with over 700 million subscribers, is expected to start later this month ... China Mobile is one of the world's last major carriers that doesn't offer the iPhone."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

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Andrea Peterson · December 4, 2013