Horrifying Graphic: What The NSA Knows About You From Your Phone Usage Alone

Daniel G. J.
July 3rd, 2013
Updated 07/03/2013 at 4:39 am

The National Security Agency’s collection of data regarding telephone conversations is a far greater threat to privacy than many of us believe. A lawsuit filed by a German politician proves just how much you can learn about a person’s life by monitoring and tracking their phone usage.

Malte Spitz, a member of Germany’s Green Party, sued his cellphone company, T-Mobile, in 2010 in an attempt to determine how much the carrier knew about him. Malte won the suit and received a CD that showed how easy it is to track a person via their phone.

35,890 Records About His Movement

When he won his lawsuit, Spitz received a CD containing 35,830 records, each documenting his movements. Spitz learned that T-Mobile could pinpoint exactly where he was at a given time. By combining GPS with the data, Spitz could track his own movements around Germany.

T-Mobile knew exactly how many telephone calls Spitz received in a day, how many calls he made, how many Twitter messages he sent out, and how many he received. By examining the data, T-Mobile could figure out that Spitz was attending a political demonstration on Sept. 5, 2009. Spitz shared the data with the German magazine ZEIT, which had an easy time creating a simple interative graphic that tracked Spitz’s movements based on the metadata. The graphic, of which you can see a still of below, highlights what the NSA and mobile phone companies can find out about you from phone records alone (click here for the interactive version):


Those with access to such data could determine what church you go to, what people you visit, and where you shop. It could be used to make criminal cases or to orchestrate surveillance of a person.

Anthony Gucciardi: How to Avoid Being Spied On By The NSA

Spitz’s lawsuit proves that telecom providers gather a vast amount of metadata about their customers. This is the kind of data that Edward Snowden revealed the NSA collects about Americans and shares with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Telecom Gestapo

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Spitz compared such data collection efforts to the work of the Nazi secret police or Gestapo and the Communist East German police or Stasi. He noted that Wolfgang Schauble, a former German Interior Minister (the nation’s chief law enforcement official), who lobbied for a data retention law to enable government to collect such data, was nicknamed Stasi 2.0 by German civil rights activists.

It appears that everybody who uses a mobile device is being constantly tracked by large companies like T-Mobile and Google. Spitz has shown us that these companies now possess tracking capabilities that the Gestapo and Stasi only dreamed of. Those capabilities are now being shared with agencies like the NSA and FBI.

We need to rein in such companies and such agencies now before privacy becomes a thing of the past. Malte Spitz is to be congratulated for exposing this metadata tracking; our media is to be condemned for ignoring Spitz’s revelations until Snowden’s revelations.

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Category: Privacy

Daniel G. J.

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Comments (24)

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  1. Most people think this is a recent discovery. I've known for a FACT they have been spying on us for a little over 40 yrs. Longer than that if you include "Statistical information" IE: Census, surveys, etc. The difference now, they ARE reading your e-mail, hearing your conversations, and intercepting your messages. And soon the biggest info gathering tool built in Utah with YOUR money is almost complete. At that precise moment, all is lost. All info will be "real time" and sifted through immediately. Criticize the govt. in the morning, be in jail by the evening.

  2. porttabacco says:

    Nothing but nothing surprises me anymore.

  3. I always assumed everything I do online and on my smart phone has been tracked from day one. It takes a real naïve person to think that the government isn't gonna track your every move when its so easy to gather the data on you

  4. Escher says:

    Brave new world – meet 1984

  5. Nancy says:

    I've known for some time the "Feds." track through your cell phone, "Facebook," etc… When I said something to my daughter, and her then boyfriend a few years ago about being tracked, they looked at me like I had THREE HEADS!!! They ain't looking at me like that anymore!

  6. ExoticDreamer says:

    You all wish that the government was closely tracking you. If they tracked me long enough they would bore to death. As exciting as the paranoid may think their lives are, in general, nobody cares about the little mundane details of your life.

  7. Ozzie Perez says:

    You can't go back to LAN lines or phone booths because they too will be extinct.

  8. While I agree with ExoticDancer, that most of our lives would bore these spies to death, the real point is that it is all wrong. Not to mention, we pay good money to the cell phone companies for service. If they want to use our data for some reason, then the cell phone companies should be paying us for our data. Sounds to me like these companies have a voyeurism problem, high tech peeping Toms.

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  11. lilyjoin says:

    we pay good money to the cell phone companies for service. If they want to use our data for some reason, then the cell phone companies should be paying us for our data

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  13. Don’t we have the right for privacy? It is really disturbing that we are being stalked and hunted down by some unknown guys every single minute without even being aware of it. Nobody knows where such data goes and what it is being used for. Great that you shared such a shocking info with us.

  14. Sam says:

    This is honestly getting scary. We pay our companies good money hoping that they are keeping our private information secured. Although, we have nothing to hide, it is still a bit unnerving thinking that someone could be listening to all of our phone conversations and that someone is keeping track of our online activities.

    Samuel T. from business phone systems

  15. Markus says:

    That is really shocking that they save the data, normally they have to delete it after billing.

  16. telecom says:

    Yes it is true. You can check with your telecom service provider. If you have a family plan with your cellular service provider, you may be able to enable tracking for the phones on that plan.

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  19. Are you serious !!!
    If Yes, than this really shocking :(

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