Facebook no longer has the largest social network – the NSA does

Mark Zuckerberg, it’s time to move over. There is a new king of social networks, and it’s not Facebook anymore. New information released by the infamous NSA leaker Edward Snowden shows that the NSA is mapping a social network that takes up to 20 billion records – seventeen times the amount of Facebook’s 1.2 billion recorded users.

The NSA has been collecting huge amounts of data, and creating sophisticated networks on foreign, and domestic, connections. According to leaked information to the NY Times, the NSA was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said.

The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including phone numbers, IP addresses, GPS location services, email addresses, bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls, property records, and unspecified tax data, according to the documents.

The social networking mapping is called a “contact chain,” and the social networking analyses relies on both domestic and international metadata. Phone and e-mail logs, for example, allow analysts to identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.

The documents provided to the NY Times by Snowden, show that the records, in-part obtained through PRISM, are poured into a database tool code named Mainway. An internal N.S.A. bulletin, for example, noted that in 2011 Mainway was taking in 700 million phone records per day. In August 2011, it began receiving an additional 1.1 billion cellphone records daily from an unnamed American service provider under Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which allows for the collection of the data of Americans if at least one end of the communication is believed to be foreign.