The NSA tripled its surveillance of U.S. phone records in 2017
The National Security Agency collected 534 million records of Americans' calls and texts in 2017, an annual agency report published Friday indicated, tripling its 2016 collection rate.
The surveillance in question focuses on metadata, which means the NSA records the source and recipient of each communication rather than its content. The agency is also able to collect details like the time, duration, contact information, and even the number of characters in a text message. The millions of records the NSA collected in 2017 stemmed from the agency's targeting of the communications of just 40 people — and, by extension, everyone they know.
While this mass surveillance remains substantially less than the NSA's spying on U.S. communications before the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden, privacy advocates are alarmed by the new escalation. "The intelligence community's transparency has yet to extend to explaining dramatic increases in their collection," said Robyn Greene of the Open Technology Institute.