(WASHINGTON) -- The National Security Agency has been compiling hundreds of millions of contact lists from e-mail and instant messaging accounts all over the world, including those of Americans, the Washington Post reports. The collection program has not been previously disclosed and intercepts address books and "buddy lists" transmitted when a user logs on, sends a message, or syncs their data, says the Post.
The NSA hasn't been targeting individuals, says the newspaper, but rather is collecting lists in large numbers -- perhaps a sizable fraction of the world's accounts.
A separate program which records nearly all U.S. call records has generated controversy since it was revealed over the summer. The address book program allows the NSA to connect people through who they communicate with, though the Post points out that they can create "false associations," perhaps with people who the individual in question hasn't communicated with in years.
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