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Shedding Light in the Darkness

Big Brother & The Internet of Things

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The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, submitted testimony to the Senate on Tuesday stating: “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.”

The Guardian reports: “Security experts examining the internet of things take as a given that the US and other surveillance services will intercept the signals the newly networked devices emit, much as they do with those from cellphones.”

In a report in The Register, “We’re going to use your toothbrush to snoop on you, says US spy boss,” noted Clapper’s comments come following repeated warnings over the poor security standards included in smart-home products.

The Register also reports an an academic review. “The Internet of Things promises a new frontier for networking objects, machines, and environments in ways that we are just beginning to understand. When, say, a television has a microphone and a network connection, and is reprogrammable by its vendor, it could be used to listen in to one side of a telephone conversation taking place in its room – no matter how encrypted the telephone service itself might be. These forces are on a trajectory towards a future with more opportunities for surveillance.”

In a 2012 speech to In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, CIA director David Petraeus called the surveillance implications of the internet of things “transformational, particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft”.

With the rise of the “smart home,” folks will be transmitting tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time. “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said.

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