Paranoia Alert: CIA Could Use Your Kitchen Appliances To Keep Track Of You
March 19, 2012

Paranoia Alert: CIA Could Use Your Kitchen Appliances To Keep Track Of You

John Neumann for

Your smart phone can connect to your television, your home security, your vehicle, even with your kitchen appliances, and CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them, reports Spencer Ackerman for

Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things”, or wired devices, at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA´s venture capital firm. “℠Transformational´ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. However with the rise of the “smart home,” you would be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when, for instance, you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room´s ambiance.

“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.

“The latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Powering this revolution in connectedness are new ARM computer chips, which are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors, and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance, reports Rob Waugh for Mail Online.

Futurists think that one day ℠connected´ devices will tell the internet where they are and what they are doing at all times, mapped by computers as precisely as Google Maps charts the physical landscape now.

Adding intelligence to ordinary devices, those that they can be remotely monitored, controlled and used as pickups for sound, video and wireless data, also allows those devices to be used or abused at will even by spy agencies wanting to listen in on private citizens without the justification needed for a warrant or effort needed for an illegal bug.

The CIA has more leeway with smart appliances than regular computers due to changes in the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Court decisions about the American Patriot Act, make less clear whether it´s actually forbidden for the CIA to collect geolocation data from devices or collect server-based logs for individual smartphones.

A refinement or restructuring of the rules for the FBI, CIA , NSA, and Secret Service would be needed to make clear to badge carriers that having the ability to listen in on every device touched by every citizen is not the same as having the right to do so.

The only question is, after the change, what revisions should we allow to our sense of identity, to our ability to keep even the most private issue secret and to the ability of David Petraeus to penetrate those secrets by infiltrating those devices we once thought of as passive, discrete parts of our homes and person.

Privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned of how information such as geolocation data can be misused - but as more and more devices connect, it´s clear that opportunities for surveillance will multiply, reports PC World´s Kevin Fogarty.