Popular apps for smartphones have become necessary for many users, but the apps may come at a costly price aside from the fee from the app store. A whistleblower has come forth with details that apps from such phones are being tapped to garner personal information for data by National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The personal information that is being collected includes gender, age, location, marriage status and even sexual orientation collected through most smart phones, according to The Guardian. Edward Snowden, the whistleblower, has released confidential reports revealing the details that travel from the smart phone to a the organizations that spies through information.
The leaking of personal information from many apps have caught many by surprise, including manufacturers that were not aware what NSA and GCHQ were collecting. Popular and seemingly safe kid-friendly games such as "Angry Birds" remain one of the most downloaded apps but are amongst the most spied apps.
Sara Bergstrom, Vice President of marketing and communications for Rovio, the company behind "Angry Birds," insists the company was not aware nor in compliance with any of the organizations. "Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in third party advertising networks. Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations."
Google Maps is another smart phone tool that is being named on the list of apps being tracked by NSA, which points to information of location and preferences from a user. With apps such as "Angry Birds" downloading over more than a billion downloads in a year and the expansion of app categories, more personal information is being gathered for data purposes.
Despite the reports, the NSA has responded to the controversy stating that they are in tact with their mission of security and not abusing one's personal information. "NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission," responded the agency to the Times.
To ensure that citizens don't overreact to the controversy and fear their own safety, White House press secretary Jay Carney also elaborated that the main purpose of the NSA is for protection against "foreign intelligence threats" only.
"...to the extent data is collected by the NSA, through whatever means, we are not interested in the communications of people who are not valid [targets] and we are not after the information of ordinary Americans," said Carney in a press conference Monday.
Both organizations remain adamant that the "spying" is not to endanger anyone, but carry out their mission of proper security measures in an "authorized, necessary and proportionate" way.