Top US Official Admits Government Will Use “Internet Of Things” to Spy on the Public

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gps spy camera

You can’t say you weren’t warned. The writing on the wall that “smart devices” would prove to be manna from heaven for spy agencies and hackers around the word has been obvious for a very long time.

A year ago, I published two articles on this topic. The first highlighted the revelation that Samsung’s Smart TV can and will listen to your conversations, and will share the details with a third party. The second had to do with the release of a high-tech Barbie that will listen to your child, record its words, send them over the internet for processing. If you missed these posts the first time around, I suggest you get up to speed:

A Very Slippery Slope – Yes, Your Samsung Smart TV Can Listen to Your Private Conversations

Big Barbie is Watching You – Meet the WiFi Connected Barbie Doll that Talks to Your Children and Records Them

Moving along to today’s article, we learn that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, admitted that the government intends to use the “Internet of Things” for spying on the public. As Trevor Timm of the Guardian notes:

If you want evidence that US intelligence agencies aren’t losing surveillance abilities because of the rising use of encryption by tech companies, look no further than the testimony on Tuesday by the director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

As the Guardian reported, Clapper made clear that the internet of things – the many devices like thermostats, cameras and other appliances that are increasingly connected to the internet – are providing ample opportunity for intelligence agencies to spy on targets, and possibly the masses. And it’s a danger that many consumers who buy these products may be wholly unaware of.

“In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told a Senate panel as part of his annual “assessment of threats” against the US. 

Of course, James Clapper is the guy who lied to Congress and faced zero repercussions. As is always the case when it comes to government criminality.

Privacy advocates have known about the potential for government to exploit the internet of things for years. Law enforcement agencies have taken notice too, increasingly serving court orders on companies for data they keep that citizens might not even know they are transmitting. Police have already been asking Google-owned company Dropcam for footage from cameras inside people’s homes meant to keep an eye on their kids. Fitbit data has already been used in court against defendants multiple times.

But the potential for these privacy violations has only recently started reaching millions of homes: Samsung sparked controversy last year after announcing a television that would listen to everything said in the room it’s in and in the fine print literally warned people not to talk about sensitive information in front of it.

While Samsung took a bunch of heat, a wide array of devices now act as all-seeing or all-listening devices, including other television models, Xbox Kinect, Amazon Echo and GM’s OnStar program that tracks car owners’ driving patterns. Even a new Barbie has the ability to spy on you – it listens to Barbie owners to respond but also sends what it hears back to the mothership at Mattel.

Then there are the rampant security issues with the internet of things that allow hackers – whether they are criminal, government or something in between – to access loads of data without any court order, like the creeps who were eavesdropping on baby monitors of new parents. Just a few weeks ago, a security researcher found that Google’s Nest thermostats were leaking users’ zipcodes over the internet. There’s even an entire search engine for the internet of things called Shodan that allows users to easily search for unsecured webcams that are broadcasting from inside people’s houses without their knowledge.

While people voluntarily use all these devices, the chances are close to zero that they fully understand that a lot of their data is being sent back to various companies to be stored on servers that can either be accessed by governments or hackers.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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  • Mike

    simply disable the appliance’s ability to connect to the internet and you can’t be spied on with it. If it comes with a built in cell antenna then remove it. It is not that difficult.

    • sunshine

      How do you do that?

      Me personally…I don’t have a TV, don’t have or play video games, have a sticker stuck over the laptop camera, don’t even know (or care) what Amazon Echo is, etc. Why do people purchase these items?

      • Reverend Draco

        They purchase these items so they can continue not thinking. . .

        • What gives you invulnerability to random urinalysis?

          • Reverend Draco

            Time.

            I work seasonally.

          • You never, ever visit a doctor when you are hot?

          • Reverend Draco

            I try to avoid them as much as possible, all the time.

            When I’m not working, it doesn’t matter anyway.

          • You never have to take a DOT physical?

          • Reverend Draco

            Yeah – it comes due right after the beginning of corn season.

          • Now that we have to keep a current DOT physical to keep our CDLs, it is just a matter of time before we have to be subject to random urinalysis at the government’s whim to keep them. The time will come when you will have to comply at TSA checkpoints and breathalyzer stops. It is pretty difficult to avoid both of those when you aren’t working, isn’t it?

          • Reverend Draco

            I’ve avoided the TSA entirely for this long, I don’t see a problem avoiding them in the future.

            As for the other – well, I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

          • More than likely you won’t get enough notice to get clean, or even think about it, and the TSA/CHP/DHS will burn you on their pyre. Even a local job won’t save you from the over-regulation of the most regulated western state. I haven’t gone through a random since I quit doing driveaway, and it was difficult to catch the collection bitch for my pre-employment.

          • Reverend Draco

            I don’t see it being an issue for much longer, really. . .

            With more states doing medical. . . and now legalizing recreational. . . eventually it’ll end up like alcohol – if you’re currently inebriated you’re busted, otherwise have a drink on me. . .

            I know, I know – Hope is the name of the bitch who paved the road to Hell with good intentions. . .

          • Unless you can introduce a single federal agency EVER giving up jurisdiction or authority over anything they have it in, I don’t have any hope that such will ever happen short of a revolution or an overthrow of the federal government. It is already like alcohol to the majority of Americans, largely because of their experience in its use, but there are too many parts of the government that can take advantage of drug prohibition to produce revenue and arrest records to think it will ever do more than move off of schedule 1.
            It might be different in the land of fruits and nuts.

          • Reverend Draco

            It worked with Alcohol Prohibition – the states led the way. . . it could – could, not necessarily will – work RE: pot.

          • Alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment, all other illicit drugs, not so much.

          • Reverend Draco

            True. . . but the results were much the same – corruption, violence. . .

          • Do you think that the legalization of every illegal activity that breeds corruption and violence would end them?

          • Reverend Draco

            Reduce, never end – there are always going to be people with Gladys Kravitz Syndrome

          • The best way to end corruption and violence is to stop breeding megalomaniacs.

          • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

            You are already subject to random drug screens. Your employer is mandated by CFR 49 to utilize random urinalysis, either on their own, or through the use of what is known as a consortium, who is responsible for ordering randoms. I don’t know if it is still this way, but O/O’s were once required to belong to consortiums, since they weren’t trusted to select their own randoms-for obvious reasons. These may not be at “the government’s whim” per se, but they ARE mandated by CFR 49.

          • I assume you are aware that the Code of Federal Regulations are as much, or as little, law as Executive Orders?
            I’ve been subject to pre-employment, random, and post-accident urinalysis for over 25 years, when I was driving under my CDL. Nothing new there, but the change to having to keep a valid DOT physical happened a couple of years ago, and is a good indication that more oppressive regulation is in the wings. I was speaking of the TSA/CHP/DHS with a driver who only does agricultural hauling seasonally and locally when I refered to the government’s whim.

          • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

            A valid DOT physical has been required for over twenty years-I know because the only citation I have ever received as a commercial driver involved, among other things, an expired DOT physical. That was over twenty years ago. I know there are some exemptions for agricultural hauling, but I never studied them since they never applied to my work. And yes-the regulation only becomes more oppressive.

          • A DOT physical had been required only if you were driving a commercial vehicle. Now it is required if you want to keep your CDL, whether you are driving a commercial vehicle or not. In the past, retired drivers could keep their CDLs as long as they wanted, taking the DOT only to become qualified to drive when they wanted to, that is no longer possible. A valid DOT physical is required to drive a commercial vehicle, or keep ones CDL, now.

          • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

            That I wasn’t aware of, but I’m not surprised. Is that state specific-or federal?

          • Federal, as of a couple of years ago.

      • Mike

        some devices allow you to disable it in the settings menu, others require you to physically remove the antenna.

    • FollowDaMoney

      You can get something called a SmartRouter and control your network. You can set the upstream and down stream speeds of each individual device on your network or block them all together. Example your Smart Tv’s downstream could be set to 30 meg and the upstream could be set at 9.6K so you could request movies, but would not let them listen to you in real time. This would also work for IP cameras, etc.

      • Mike

        I do that as well, and also have strong passwords on the wireless so the devices are never going access my internet.

        • Passwords only prevent unauthorized human access. All Internet connectable devices will talk to any device they can access. They just won’t let you know about it or do it yourself.

        • FollowDaMoney

          If there is another open WiFi in your area it will connect to it.

      • Anything that can connect to the Internet under your control can be controlled over the Internet without you knowing it.

        • FollowDaMoney

          Not with my SmartRouter. It controls access to my network in both directions. I block about 180 different IP addresses each day. My box is also a firewall that watches for that kind of activity. MS tries to hack me about every two weeks. The Chinese are about 1/2 of the attempts even though they said they were not trying to hack us. Snicker.

          • All bets are off when the user is the writer of the OS of the router, but I doubt you wrote yours’. There are no firewalls that are allowed to exclude the American intelligence community, and spooks are spooks.

          • FollowDaMoney

            It is part of my company. We do. They can pound sand based on the Constitution. I LOL every day. To bad the Smartest woman in the world didn’t contact me first. PS. They can catch what ever is sent on the Internet because it is a post card. Hand delivery and code are key.

    • Since Internet access is built into appliances and automated, it is transparent and unobservable. It is much easier for those of us who understand the technology than for those who buy the appliance because it can do things that we don’t understand require an Internet connection. If an appliance’s owners doesn’t have a local network, many appliances can connect through the cellular network or the neighbor’s wifi. Even if that connection is intermittent, it is very inexpensive to build enough memory into the appliance that it can store information and wait for an opportunity to connect and forward it.

    • Razedbywolvs

      A radio transmitter is about the ½ the size of a grain of sand
      now. Your thermostat might be using big old cheap tech you can pull off now, but that will not last much longer.

      I went to the hardware store to buy a new thermostat a couple of weeks ago. The old Dial Thermostat was the most expensive one $49 and the new fancy ones i don’t like are $27.
      wtf a spring, is more expensive than a computer chip. My thermostat is still broken, I will have to try a different store or the junk yard.

      • Mike

        yea, they are trying to force people to the smart thermostats so that one day they can tell you how to heat and cool your house and fine you if you don’t listen.

  • Jollyjoke

    We know how the American sheeple think; we have nothing to hide so who cares. Soon they will discover that their very existence is a threat to the state and, yes they do have something to hide; themselves.

  • Will use as opposed to has been using since the Internet became available to the public?

  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    James Clapper had better have a VERY well fortified bunker to slither into when things go all to hell. He would make a very handy example of the People’s anger and frustration about the tyranny he represents.