The U.S. National Security Agency uses Internet advertising Web cookies to increase its global surveillance and identify possible hackers, new documents show.
The documents, provided to the Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also indicate the top-secret intelligence agency is using commercially gathered information to find the locations of smartphones and other mobile devices around the world.
Many smartphone applications running on iPhone and Android devices, and the Apple Inc. and Google Inc. operating systems, track device locations, often without clearly indicating this to the phone's owner, the Post said.
Privacy advocates have long argued against the commercial tracking for advertising purposes of people's Internet browsing practices. The online ad industry has said its tracking practices are harmless and help consumers by showing ads to them that they're likely to want to see.
The revelation the NSA and British counterpart spy agency Government Communications Headquarters are exploiting these commercial technologies could give privacy advocates a new ammunition for reining in commercial surveillance, the Post said.
The NSA declined to comment to the Post on the specific tactics the documents outlined.
"As we've said before, NSA, within its lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, uses intelligence tools to understand the intent of foreign adversaries and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans," the agency said in a statement.
Google, whose cookies were singled out by the intelligence agencies as the cookies of choice, also declined to comment.
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Original headline: Snowden documents: NSA piggybacks on Web cookies to spy
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