Thinking Tech

CIA: We'll spy on you through your refrigerator

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Your household appliances, such as dishwashers, ovens, stereo and TVs, may someday be used to spy on you.

If you're concerned about Facebook's intrusion into personal privacy, wait until you hear this: Your household appliances, such as dishwashers, ovens, stereo and TVs, may someday be used to spy on you.

That's because the same technology that enables devices such as video gaming consoles and even cars to be online, run apps and work "smarter" also makes it possible for outside parties to monitor and keep tabs on a person's day-to-day activities. Naturally, it's also something the CIA wants in on.

At a summit held by the CIA's venture capitalist firm In-Q-Tel, the agency's Director David Petraeus discussed how "smart homes" may someday be rigged to provide intelligence officials with details about someone's whereabouts by collecting geo-location data.

“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.”

Wait. Hold on. RFID? Sensors? Cloud computing? Those are the same technologies we here at SmartPlanet have been keeping tabs on (Admittedly with a healthy dose of optimism/skepticism) While developers would argue that espionage wasn't what any of them were intended for, we'd be naive not to realize by now that anything that lets us be more connected also opens us up to such possibilities. And recent legislation, passed in 2008, allows government officials to extend their powers to peek into electronic data such as emails. So who's to say this doesn't fall into that category.

According to a report in Wired:

The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

Petraeus also mentioned that agents will also have to adapt to newer forms of cyber-esponiage by creating special online identities so their own covers won't be blown.

“Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus told the audience. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”

Some of his remarks may sound alarming, especially if you're concerned about privacy. But keep in mind that even if you decided to up and move into a cabin the woods, there's nothing stopping drones or even satellites from keeping a watchful eye. That's the kind of world we live in now.

(via Wired)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure