Yesterday, Barry Ritholtz posted an amazing and eye-opening piece on just how much the United States government is spying on Americans. It is shocking, and demonstrates that almost nothing we do is private anymore.
Here it is in a nutshell:
The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.
Many Americans wrongly believe that the government is only spying on the “bad guys.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The government is collecting loads of data on all of us, regardless of whether we are suspected of crimes or not. (And of course, the data is all collected in violation of the laws that are supposed to protect us from unreasonable search and seizure and other such acts by the government.) This data is not just collected, it is retained (for all eternity, I’m afraid), and who knows when and how it could be used against any of us.
Here is a brief summary of some of the most shocking itemsfor those who are too lazy and disinterested to read all the details:
- The government is photographing the outside information on every piece of snail mail.
- The government is spying on you through your phone … and may even remotely turn on your camera and microphone when your phone is off.
- Cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011.
- Your iPhone, or other brand of smartphone is spying on virtually everything you do (ProPublica notes: “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker“).
- The government might be spying on you through your computer’s webcam or microphone.
- The government might also be spying on you through the “smart meter” on your own home.
- The FBI wants a backdoor to all software.
- Microsoft has long worked hand-in-hand with the NSA and FBI so that encryption doesn’t block the government’s ability to spy on users of Skype, Outlook, Hotmail and other Microsoft services.
- Leading security experts say that the NSA might have put a backdoor in all encryption standards years ago. … meaning that the NSA can easily hack into encrypted communications.
- “Black boxes” are currently installed in between 90% and 96% of all new cars. And starting in 2014, all new cars will include black boxes that can track your location.
- The CIA wants to spy on you through your dishwasher and other “smart” appliances.
- And they’re probably bluffing and exaggerating, but the Department of Homeland Security claims they will soon be able to know your adrenaline level, what you ate for breakfast and what you’re thinking … from 164 feet away. (In addition, people will probably soon be swallowing tracking devices for medical purposes)
- The government is allegedly scanning prisoners’ brains without their consent at Guantanamo. In the near future, brain scanners may be able to literally read our thoughts (and see this).
- The government has also worked on artificial intelligence for “pre-crime” detection on the Web.
- The government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S., including content.
- The NSA is not listening to every call, they are storing every call and can listen to them at any time.
- A top NSA executive confirmed to Washington’s Blog that the NSA is intercepting and storing virtually all digital communications on the Internet.
- The government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act so that “everything” is deemed relevant … so the government can spy on everyone.
- And the rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to … copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” may be permanently retained.
- The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.
- Many foreign countries are collecting data and sharing it with the NSA.
- The NSA spies on Americans’ credit card transactions. Many other government agencies track your credit card purchases as well.
- The government is flying drones over the American homeland to spy on us. Indeed, the head of the FBI told Congress that drones are used for domestic surveillance … and that there are no rules in place governing spying on Americans with drones.
- The TSA has moved way past airports, trains and sports stadiums, and is deploying mobile scanners to spy on people all over the place. This means that traveling within the United States is no longer a private affair.
- Travelers should be aware that anything on their mobile devices can be searched by government agents, who may also seize the devices and keep them for weeks or months.