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Spencer Ackerman reports: "All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you're a 'person of interest' to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the 'smart home,' you'd be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room's ambiance."

CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus is looking forward to being able to use household items to spy on people of interest. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus is looking forward to being able to use household items to spy on people of interest. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)



CIA Chief: We'll Spy On You Through Your Dishwasher

By Spencer Ackerman, Wired

18 March 12

 

ore and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an "Internet of Things" - that is, wired devices - at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital firm. "‘Transformational' is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies," Petraeus enthused, "particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft."

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you're a "person of interest" to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the "smart home," you'd be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room's ambiance.

"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," Petraeus said, "the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing."

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices "change our notions of secrecy" and prompt a rethink of "our notions of identity and secrecy." All of which is true - if convenient for a CIA director.

The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

That's not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He's interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies - and sweeping away the "digital footprints" of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

"Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come," Petraeus observed. "Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers."

It's hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy's friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasn't been on Facebook since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

 

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+30 # Brabenec 2012-03-18 11:52
The prescience of George Orwell is continually astonishing.
 
 
+24 # globalcitizen 2012-03-18 12:01
The CIA is a fascist outfit, criminal to boot. Patreus, himself, is a mercenary, "muscleman", as General Butler said in his famous speech, for Wall Street and Fascism.

Think FRANCO, MUSSOLINI, Fascist Germany, when you watch the arrogance, and totalitarian views of this cog in the Fascist machine of Capitalism.
 
 
+28 # rsnfan 2012-03-18 12:03
You can not figure out how to find out if Iran is making nuclear weapons but you can spy on your own citizens.
Nice Job. Not!!!
 
 
+8 # Adoregon 2012-03-18 12:55
Gosh, that really Zucks.
 
 
+20 # reiverpacific 2012-03-18 13:08
"People of interest?" -now there's another name for "Anybody who rocks the boat"-or even talks about it!
Maybe we need a new language like "Feck you CIA!" as a slogan!
 
 
+11 # Lyn 2012-03-18 17:36
Maybe this is why "they" really want to get rid of the postal service!!! It's very hard to spy on your snail mail. . . .
 
 
+13 # futhark 2012-03-18 18:00
All the more reason to demand elective officeholders really support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Vote out and/or impeach those who violate the People's trust and our rights.
 
 
+6 # Billy Bob 2012-03-18 19:11
We can actually deman laws that make this illegal. We can even dismantle or at least make Constitutional, the entire phony security state. We can do this but we have to do it quick.

OWS is just the start.
 
 
+3 # Billy Bob 2012-03-18 20:48
demand - NOT "deman".

Anyone who can undo the philosophy behind the surveilance state would be 'de man'.
 
 
+2 # edensasp 2012-03-18 19:20
And with congress delegating its authority of limitations on writ of habeas without restriction beyond "suspect" over to the DOD in the 2012 NDAA, we can expect this without constitutional recourse, anytime, every where, and any one, suspect or otherwise.
 
 
+10 # RMDC 2012-03-18 19:38
For those who still believe in Obama, just consider his appointments. Patraeus is probably the worst of a really bad crew. He is a psychopathic killer. A liar. And wildly ambitious. He may run for president in 2016. It may be that Obama appointed him as head of the CIA to keep him out of the 2012 race. Obama may have known that he could not turn down the job of heading up the drone killings that are operating in about 20 nations.

I just don't know how we as a nation get rid of people like Patraeus -- or Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the rest of the war lovers.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2012-03-18 20:50
The best thing we can do is raise our children to not grow up and act like them. Then, when we're old, our children will actually drive the maniacs out of power, if the maniacs haven't already consolidated so much power that American citizens are no longer even taken into consideration.
 
 
+1 # jcdav 2012-03-19 06:56
Perhaps we are already irrelevant...on ly it has not quite yet become common knowledge, eh?
 

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