The NSA Can Read Everything on Your Cell Phone

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Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Der Spiegel has confirmed what you have probably come to suspect after over three months of reading Edward Snowden's leaked secrets: the National Security Agency is capable of accessing data on iPhones, Blackberries, and Androids. The German magazine's report, which was co-authored by frequent Snowden collaborator Laura Poitras, says documents show that the NSA has assigned separate teams to hack into the operating system of each kind of device without the cell phone companies' knowledge. The agency can now view "contacts, call lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information," though Der Spiegel notes that the practice "has not been a mass phenomenon. It has been targeted, in some cases in an individually tailored manner."

So, the NSA is probably not reading your sexts, unless you are in contact with suspected terrorists or an agent's ex. But don't forget that they could, if they wanted to. The agency is good at overcoming setbacks:

[The document] also notes there was a period in 2009 when the NSA was temporarily unable to access BlackBerry devices. After the Canadian company acquired another firm, it changed the way in compresses its data. But in March 2010, the department responsible declared it had regained access to BlackBerry data and celebrated with the word, "champagne!"

And that's not the report's only "fun" part. According to the AP, Der Spiegel's full piece (set for release on Monday) includes portions of a NSA presentation that unsubtly references the movie version of 1984, George Orwell's book about a dystopic surveillance state: "The slides — which show stills from the film, former Apple Inc. chairman Steve Jobs holding an iPhone, and iPhone buyers celebrating their purchase — are captioned: 'Who knew in 1984 ... that this would be big brother ... and the zombies would be paying customers?'" Today's middle school teachers might want to think about updating their summer reading assignments.