Meet Boundless Informant: The NSA Tool That Watches the Entire Planet

By Eric Limer on at

Does the NSA have any secrets left? First there was PRISM—the network that's collecting real-time data on people everywhere—and now The Guardian has turned up "Boundless Informant" which is indexing surveillance and espionage metadata from the ENTIRE WORLD.

Where PRISM collects data, Boundless Informant is all about organising it. The system keeps take of surveillance metadata across the globe, indexing countries by how much metadata has been slurped from local phone and computer networks.

Although it's no surprise that the NSA has something like this, the organisation has come out and said that it's only spying on persons of interest and there isn't any metadata about US citizens in such a system that may or may not exist. Surprise surprise, neither of those things are true.

As you can see in the image above, countries are ranked by colour. Green countries are the ones where the NSA has the least data. Yellow means there's more data, orange even more, and red the most. This data doesn't include anything so specific as the content of particular emails or phone calls, but it does get pretty granular, including specific IP addresses. And that's usually enough to drill down to someone's approximate location.

The documents obtained by The Guardian describe the system this way:

The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country

Other documents say it is designed to answer questions such as "What type of coverage do we have on country X" in "near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure."

It's yet another cat out of the NSA's apparently large bag. Only time will tell what else is in there just waiting to get out. [The Guardian]