The U.S.’s top intelligence official acknowledged today that the government could start using interconnected “smart devices” to spy on its citizens.
In an intelligence briefing on Tuesday, James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, essentially said that no device is safe if the government decides they want to use it to spy.
“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 said, as reported by The Guardian.
That means your Apple TV, Samsung gadgets, Nest Thermostat — all parts of the “internet of things” that make up our increasingly technologically interconnected homes could be used to collect information.
We already know our devices are collecting data about us, but as more and more aspects of our lives go “smart” or automated, so too goes the government’s ability to take that data. Clapper didn’t say specifically what agency would be collecting the data, nor when or how they would intercept it — just that the intelligence community would not rule out the option.
Samsung in particular has drawn criticism, when a part of the user agreement for one of their Smart TVs released last year appeared to be lifted almost verbatim from a description of Big Brother’s screen in George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Devices in every part of the home have raised concerns — the German government once considered the Xbox One a “monitoring device”, and Mattel’s new Barbie also comes with government surveillance capabilities. (There’s no word yet as to whether the new American Girl doll will be modeled after Keri Russell). And most consumers don’t even realize the level of surveillance they’re exposing themselves to.
“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,” Trevor Timm wrote in The Guardian yesterday.
And often when they do buy devices, consumers will leave them unsecured, leaving them wide open for hackers to openly pry into peoples’ private networks. And if private hackers can get in, you better believe the government can too.
With the way things are going, living off the grid isn’t looking so bad.