The National Security Agency (NSA) doesn’t have the most positive of reputations right now. Its controversial phone surveillance program was recently ruled illegal under federal law. The NSA surveils a lot of online and mobile communications, and it’s unknown which programs and apps are targeted. For example, whether the surveillance program also spies on popular livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat might be a question we won’t get an answer to, reports the Daily Dot.
The outlet reached out to everyone’s favorite U.S. government agency through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The NSA chief FOIA public liaison officer Sharon C. Linkous responded that “the fact of the existence or non-existence of the materials you request is a currently and properly classified matter.”
“The Agency is authorized by various statutes to protect certain information concerning its activities,” wrote Linkous. “The third exemption of the FOIA provides for the withholding of information specifically protected from disclosure by statute.”
In other words, the NSA isn’t sure whether it’s secretly collecting information from Periscope and Meerkat. As the Daily Dot notes, videos posted to Periscope and Meerkat are public, though a large chunk of related data is not. As such, the NSA could theoretically mine this information. It’s a theory that makes sense if you take into account the report last March that revealed the NSA went so far as to masquerade as Facebook in order to infect “millions” of computers with malware and launch cyberattacks.
Unfortunately for the NSA, various leaks, which include mass surveillance of nude Webcam chats, tapping international leaders’ phones, mass metadata collection, the stealing of SIM card encryption keys, and various other programs have painted the agency in a very dark light. If anything, we’ll likely learn the true answer to the aforementioned FOIA request the same way we’ve learned about all of these other programs: through a leak.