In an interview with the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ which aired in Britain this week, Edward Snowden spoke in detail about the spying capabilities of the UK intelligence agency GCHQ. He disclosed that government spies can legally hack into any citizen’s phone to listen in to what’s happening in the room, view files, messages and photos, pinpoint exactly where a person is (to a much more sophisticated level than a normal GPS system), and monitor a person’s every move and every conversation, even when the phone is turned off. These technologies are named after Smurfs, those little blue cartoon characters who had a recent Hollywood makeover. But despite the cute name, these technologies are very disturbing; each one is built to spy on you in a different way:
- “Dreamy Smurf”: lets the phone be powered on and off
- “Nosey Smurf”:lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off
- “Tracker Smurf”:a geo-location tool which allows [GCHQ] to follow you with a greater precision than you would get from the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.
- “Paranoid Smurf”: hides the fact that it has taken control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognising that the phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance.
Snowden says: “They want to own your phone instead of you.” It sounds very much like he means we are being purposefully encouraged to buy our own tracking devices. That kinda saved the government some money, didn’t it?
His revelations should worry anyone who cares about human rights, especially in an era where the threat of terrorism is used to justify all sorts of governmental crimes against civil liberties. We have willingly given up our freedoms in the name of security; as a result we have neither. We seem to have forgotten that to live as a free person is a basic human right: we are essentially free beings. We are born naked and without certification; we do not belong to any government nor monarchy nor individual, we don’t even belong to any nation or culture or religion- these are all social constructs. We belong only to the universe that created us, or whatever your equivalent belief. It is therefore a natural human right not to be not be under secret surveillance by your own government, those corruptible liars who are supposedly elected by and therefore accountable to the people.
The danger for law-abiding citizens who say they have nothing to fear because they are not terrorists, beware: many peaceful British protesters have been arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act since its introduction in 2005. Edward Snowden‘s disclosure confirms just how far the attack on civil liberties has gone since 9/11 and the London bombings. Both events have allowed governments the legal right to essentially wage war on their own people, through the Patriot Act in the USA and the Prevention Of Terrorism Act in the UK. In Britain, as in the USA, terrorism and activism seem to have morphed into one entity, while nobody really knows who the real terrorists are any more. A sad but absolutely realistic fact of life in 2015: if you went to a peaceful protest at weekend and got detained, you’re probably getting hacked right now.
It’s one more reason to conclude that smartphones suck. And as much as we convince ourselves how cool they are, it’s hard to deny their invention has resulted in a tendency for humans to behave like zombies, encouraged child labor, made us more lonely than ever, turned some of us into narcissistic selfie–addicts, and prevented us from communicating with those who really matter (the ones in the same room at the same time). Now, Snowden has given us yet another reason to believe that smartphones might be the dumbest thing we could have ever inflicted on ourselves.
First published here.