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Data on our data: 5 billion location records every day

The National Security Agency collects nearly 5 billion location records every day from cellphones around the world, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and reported on in the Washington Post.

This month marks the first anniversary of the Edward Snowden leaks that changed our understanding of online privacy. Just like the subject matter of the leaks, the reporting over the last year has offered a deluge of information. So this week, we're posting a short series about all that data. Every day we'll bring you another number that reminds us how much we have learned in the last year about online surveillance and the reach of the NSA.

5,000,000,000

location records every day

According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, The National Security Agency collects nearly 5 billion location records every day from cellphones around the world. That data comes from mobile devices communicating with nearby cell towers, and the NSA uses it to look for patterns of movement that could link people to known terrorists.

Ashkan Soltani, an independent security researcher who has been working with the Washington Post to report on the leaks, calls this a "big data" approach to surveillance. "The majority of those 5 billion records are going to be innocent people's movements," Soltani says. "And those are still being collected and analyzed by the NSA, and I think that's going to be shocking to most people."

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Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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