NSA Doesn’t Just Have Your Conversations, But Your Photos Too

June, 3, 2014: This is the biggest blow to the privacy of individuals since last year’s leaks by former NSA man Edward Snowden.


According to the latest classified documents,released by Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) is accumulating vast amounts of images of people to incorporate into its communications database. The images can then be utilized in sophisticated facial recognition programs.

The proportion of images collected by the agency is enormous. Top-secret revealed that the NSA intercepts “millions of images per day,” including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images,” which, the agency believes, is “tremendous untapped potential.”


Due to these latest revelations, we now know that the NSA surveillance is not only confined to written and oral communications. The agency is believes that facial images, fingerprints and other biological identifiers are just as, if not more, important.

The New York Times article, which broke the story, quoted the 2010 document, “It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting.”

Has the NSA gone too far? With the government now going after our private photos in addition our private communications, it leads us to the question – how far is too far?

It is imperative to note here that facial recognition may be tricky. Utilizing photos of different resolutions, sides, and angles can substantially increase the margin for error. An example quoted in the Times article is the 2011 NSA document which reported that when a facial recognition system was queried with a photograph of Osama bin Laden, photos of four other bearded men with only slight resemblances to Bin Laden were among the search results.

With the government keeping tabs on your private data, and the margin of error apparent in the system, how safe do you think your lives are?

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