British and US spy agencies have gathered data from smartphone apps which leak personal data on to global networks, according to reports.Documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden suggest that mapping, gaming, and social networking apps – including the hit game Angry Birds – are providing the National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications HQ (GCHQ) with location information and details including political affiliation or sexual orientation.
Reports in The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica suggested the joint spying programme “effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system”.
In a statement, the NSA said the communications of those who were not “valid foreign intelligence targets” were not of interest.
It said: “Any implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true.
“We collect only those communications that we are authorised by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes – regardless of the technical means used by the targets.”
GCHQ said it did not comment on intelligence matters, but insisted all of its activities were “authorised, necessary and proportionate”.
A 2012 British intelligence report laid out how to extra Angry Birds users’ information from phones using the Android operating system, according to The New York Times.
Another document listed a host of other mobile apps including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Flixster.
Angry Birds is one of the most popular games on smartphones, with more than 1.7 billion downloads worldwide. British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously admitted to being a fan of the game.
Snowden, who is living in asylum in Russia, faces espionage charges in the US after disclosing the NSA’s massive telephone and internet surveillance programmes last year.
His revelations and criticism from privacy rights activists prompted President Barack Obama to announce reforms into intelligence gathering on January 17.