A National Security Agency (NSA) lawyer has announced that the department is capable of tracking citizens in specific situations using smartphone location data, and that it will be providing further details into this fact in the near future.
Users of smartphones have been voicing concerns about having their movements followed and, as it turns out, they weren’t entirely being paranoid. Matthew Olsen, general counsel of the National Security Agency, spoke at a hearing, discussing the rights of the government to obtain and use this information.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wanted to know if the NSA had the authority and capacity to “use cell site data to track the location Americans inside the country” in the absence of a warrant. To this, Olsen replied that in “certain circumstances” the NSA does indeed have the authority, but that the question was a complex one.
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This is not the first time that the NSA has been questioned by senators on the subject of geo-tracking and whether or not this can occur without the knowledge of American citizens. According to Olsen, the department will be issuing a memo in September that will describe, in detail, under precisely which circumstances the NSA is allowed to track citizens with or without their permission and knowledge.
Until that memo is released, however, all that the NSA is saying is that there are some situations when it will use a smartphone’s location data, though specifically how those circumstances are defined and how that data is being used is yet unknown.