NSA and GCHQ Interested in Collecting Sexual Orientation of Smartphone Users by Hacking Apps
NSA and GCHQ 'interested' in collecting sexual orientation of smartphone users by hacking appsReuters

The US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British eavesdropping counterpart GCHQ are capable of collecting details of the sexual orientation of smartphone users by hacking phone applications including that of the popular Angry Birds game.

According to the latest set of disclosures made by the New York Times, through the yet-undisclosed classified documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the spy agencies can gather personal details like "political alignment" and "sexual orientation" of the users.

The newspaper, which works in collaboration with the Guardian and ProPublica pertaining to the Snowden leaks, has cited a clandestine British intelligence document from 2012.

The personal data obtained by the agencies allows them to pinpoint the users' location, age, gender and other details. The smartphone users are generally unaware that the intelligence agencies are capable of collecting such sensitive information through the internet apps.

Both the intelligence agencies are said to be working hand-in-hand on how to obtain and store the large data on millions of users since 2007.

However, it is not clear how much data has actually been gathered by the agencies. Through Google Maps and other mapping devices, the agencies have also equipped themselves with capability to intercept communications and gather information in bulk.

The programme was said to be successful as one of the documents in 2008 noted: "It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system."

The latest exposé is similar to the earlier disclosures in which the spy agencies were accused of amassing personal details of users, largely unrelated to national security or terror threat, through tech giants across the world.

Rovio, the firm behind the widely popular game Angry Birds, has denied any knowledge of their apps being used by either the NSA or the GCHQ.

"Rovio doesn't have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks. Nor do we have any involvement with the organisations you mentioned [NSA and GCHQ]," the company's vice-president of marketing and communications told the Guardian.

Both the spy agencies have maintained they strictly operated under their respective laws and did not answer specifics of any of the programmes.