Sunday, 18 March 2012 01:00

New Spy Apparatus Lets People "Bug" Themselves

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David PetraeusThe good news is that in the near future governments, including our own, may no longer be planting bugs or tapping phones to spy on people. The bad news is they won't have to. New surveillance technology has been developed that will enable the CIA and other agencies to keep its eyes and ears on what people are watching and listening to by a series of connected gadgets activated when a movie is downloaded or a Web radio station is turned on. Even basic home appliances, from refrigerators to clock radios, may soon come equipped with apparatus that enables those outside the home to keep tabs on where the occupant is and what he is doing. The new technology will transform the world of electronic surveillance, predicts CIA Director David Petraeus (left).

"'Transformational' is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies," said Petraeus as quoted in the  Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies that aim to add processors and Web connections to previously  "dumb" home appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and even lighting systems, the London tabloid reported. Petraeus described to potential investors the effect the technologies will have on what he called "clandestine statecraft"

"Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing," the CIA Director said.

People downloading a film from Netflix to a flatscreen or turning on a Web radio may unwittingly alert interested parties as to exactly where they are and what they are doing. Spies will no longer have to break into a home to plant electronic "bugs" because, thanks to the "connected" devices in the new technology, people will "bug" their own homes, Petraeus said. The electronic chips employed are smaller, lower-powered, and cheaper than previous processors and designed to connect nearly every kind of electronic appliance to the Internet.  The connected technology even allows the appliances to be remote-controlled and allows those in control of it to read household activities like a book.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations concerned about privacy rights have warned of the dangers of misuse of geolocation data. Indeed, it would appear difficult to overestimate the danger posed by enhanced surveillance powers that call to mind 1984, George Orwell's futuristic novel (published in 1948) in which subjects of a totalitarian state are spied upon in their own homes through a two-way television that can't be turned off. The people are kept in line by the knowledge that the eyes and ears of the state are everywhere — and always, "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING."

Photo: CIA Director David Petraeus

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