NSA sought data on 534 MILLION phone calls in 2017

Compared to 151 million in 2016, perhaps due to dupes rather than spy boom


The United States’ Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its annual Intelligence Community Transparency Report last Friday, revealing the extent of America’s domestic intelligence-gathering efforts.

Those efforts are certainly quite extensive. The report says America’s national security agencies sought 534,396,285 call detail records in calendar 2017, based on 31,196 search terms.

The respective numbers for 2016 were 151,230,968 and 22,360. Why the big jump in call detail records for 2017? The ODNI warned that it can’t de-dupe the data, meaning that the 534m+ figure could include the same call’s metadata recorded by two telcos. And the number of calls could be higher because it includes foreign calls, or because a search for a person of interest turned up all of their calls, not just calls of interest to investigators.

A more than threefold increase is nonetheless alarming, even if the number of call records sought is lower than figures detailed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Other data points from the report (PDF) include:

  • Securing 1,437 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “Probable Cause” Court Orders that would allow electronic surveillance, of approximately 1,337 targets, 299 of them Americans;
  • 12,762 National Security letters that would allow investigators to obtain phone, credit, or financial records;
  • 33 authorisations to use electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes;
  • 77 requests for business records

The report is replete with many, many more data points and paints a picture of an extensive surveillance operation.

As intended, it reads like an account of an orderly and meticulously-authorised intelligence-gathering effort, efforts. Snowden, however, exposed lots of surveillance efforts that exceeded agencies’ authorities. And of course this report doesn’t describe any of those. ®

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022