Government surveillance of citizens is getting worse. Both democratic and authoritarian governments regularly watch us. But is there a government spy peeping through your webcam as you’re reading this blog post? Surveillance can be difficult to detect but there are ways to protect yourself. What are the signs of government spying and can you escape it?
If you haven't done anything to get onto a CIA watchlist, chances are no one is actively listening to your conversations. But that doesn't mean your personal information isn't being collected on giant databases.
The Freedom on the Net report says that 89% of internet users are monitored on social media. A lot of their data is collected and analyzed through automated means.
Even though the collection of metadata may sound less invasive, this is not necessarily the case. It can sometimes provide an even bigger image of a person's life than a specific personal conversation between two people. Here is the list of things making you more spyable.
Some risk factors include:
Back in 2015, when Samsung’s new Smart TVs came out, the company warned its customers not to discuss personal or sensitive information near the device. According to the company, users' conversations may have been captured and sent to third parties.
In 2017, a WikiLeaks report described a Weeping Angel attack used by the CIA to turn Samsung TVs into the agency's bugs. The attack tricks the user into thinking the TV is off, while it actually operates as a microphone and sends sensitive conversations to CIA servers.
It's relatively easy to hack your webcam, whether it's the government or a cybercriminal. The NSA's GUMFISH tool can direct an infected computer to take photos and record conversations through the webcam.
Back in 2008, Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, helped by the NSA, also collected images from Yahoo web chats despite many users not even being government targets. Some of them contained sexually explicit communications.
While the government won't necessarily listen in on your phone calls without a warrant, they can access your phone records. Who you call, when, and for how long can paint a pretty accurate picture of your hobbies, work, and personal life.
Government agencies have enormous malware collections, zero-day exploits, and other bugs they can use to turn your phone into a spying device. The CIA has specialized branches dedicated to finding out how to crack iOS, Android, Microsoft, or macOS software.
Countries like the US and the UK are some of the most watched-over regions in the world. According to estimates, the UK has approximately one CCTV camera for every 11 citizens. So, every time you're in public, expect Big Brother to be watching you.
You don't necessarily have to become a government target to be a victim of mass surveillance. While the government argues that monitoring is necessary to uncover and prevent terrorism, files leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA was collecting information about regular citizens. Advocates say this data is useful for preventing crimes and terrorism, while critics say it is far more likely to be abused as a tool of oppression.
So, how do you stop the government from spying on you? If you do end up on a government watchlist, there's not much you can do to prevent them from targeting and gathering information about you. However, there are ways you can boost your privacy and protect yourself from mass surveillance.
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