NSA's Phone Record Gathering May Hit More Numbers Than People Realize

We are more connected through a small set of phone numbers than we used to be


The National Security Agency's court-approved authority to access and analyze phone records three "hops" away from a suspected terrorist's phone number has alarmed civil liberties groups like the ACLU, which estimated that just one starting number could yield 2.5 million people's phone records.

Now, new research from Stanford graduate students Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler suggests that the NSA's dragnet could be bigger—much bigger.

"Under current FISA Court orders, the NSA may be able to analyze the phone records of a sizable proportion of the United States population with just one seed number," they wrote in a blog post published Monday. "And by the way, there are tens of thousands of qualified seed numbers."