x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Why the birds are angry

When security agencies monitor apps like Angry Birds, they get some useful information but also vast quantities of data of no use or interest to anyone.

The latest revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US agency’s electronic surveillance extends as far as tapping into popular applications like the Angry Birds game, used by many of the world’s billion smartphone users, underlines the reach of America’s datamining capability.

While the first reaction might be to scoff at why some of the world’s most sophisticated anti-terrorism agents are targeting an animated game in which birds are flung at pigs, the reality is that within smartphone apps there is data that could be of legitimate benefit to security agencies. One obvious one is to reveal the location of the user.

However, one wonders what picture will emerge from all the information being gathered in this way. Given the young demographic of most Angry Birds users, how is national security being bolstered by monitoring the way bored 10-year-olds in Milwaukee, Manchester, Mumbai and Mussaffah while away idle hours instead of doing their homework? But maybe that is the safeguard for average people, when there is so much data that it swamps the NSA’s ability to process an information.