Research Shows That the NSA’s Phone Meta-Data Collection Program Can ID Who Owns Firearms

March 14 2014
by GSL Staff
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Last year’s revelation that the NSA was forcing every major phone carrier to turn over phone records for millions of American citizens was pretty shocking to many people.

What I found even more shocking was how few people actually cared. I heard, “well, it’s just phone records, it’s not like they’re listening,” or “well, I don’t really have anything to hide, so who cares.”

Who cares indeed. Would you care if the government could figure out if you’re a gun owner simply by these records? Would you care if they could figure out your medical conditions? Financial situation?

A recent study that analyzed the phone meta-data of over 500 participants shows exactly what information can be deduced from nothing more than your phone records. The participants voluntary allowed information about their calls to be monitored and collected by an app installed on their smartphone.

So just what was able to be determined from nothing more than call records? According to Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler,

Participant A communicated with multiple local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare condition management service, and a hotline for a pharmaceutical used solely to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis.

Participant B spoke at length with cardiologists at a major medical center, talked briefly with a medical laboratory, received calls from a pharmacy, and placed short calls to a home reporting hotline for a medical device used to monitor cardiac arrhythmia.

Participant C made a number of calls to a firearm store that specializes in the AR semiautomatic rifle platform. They also spoke at length with customer service for a firearm manufacturer that produces an AR line.

In a span of three weeks, Participant D contacted a home improvement store, locksmiths, a hydroponics dealer, and a head shop.

Participant E had a long, early morning call with her sister. Two days later, she placed a series of calls to the local Planned Parenthood location. She placed brief additional calls two weeks later, and made a final call a month after.

The study also found that 7% of participants made calls to some sort of firearms dealer or manufacturer. That makes identifying potential gun owners pretty easy for anyone with access to this data…

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