NSA collects 250 million global email contact lists a year

It might be time to tidy up your old email account's contact list.

According to a new report, the US National Security Agency has been gathering address books from emails and instant messenger accounts from around the world.

Figures described as typical intake for a single day from 2012 points to a rate of more than 250 million accounts a year that the NSA collected contact lists from, the Washington Post reported.

The data is collected from all over the world, purportedly to help the NSA identify and map relationships and connections of "foreign intelligence targets".

The report states that typical, single day last year, the NSA collected 105,068 contact lists from Hotmail/Outlook accounts, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers like other IM services.

The largest number by far is from Yahoo, which had 444,743 accounts targeted in a day.

Yahoo adding HTTPS

Interestingly, the news comes just a day after Yahoo spokesperson Suzanne Philion told the Washington Post that they will be implementing default SSL encryption for Yahoo Mail in January 2014 – making it nearly 4 years late to the party.

Gmail has been using default SSL encryption since 2010, while Microsoft implemented the encryption by default during the global Outlook.com shift in 2012.

Facebook only deployed it by default in February this year in the US, with global implementation following in July.

Of course, SSL encryption may not help at all, as according to the report, the NSA has arrangements with foreign telecommunications companies or allied intelligence services to collect data from facilities that direct traffic on main internet routes.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft spokespeople all denied helping the NSA with their data collection.