WikiLeaks Spy files project should go a long way in educating the public about how intrusive and privacy-violating the government is and how this new high-tech industry – the surveillance industrial complex, as some are calling it – is enabling ever-more authoritarian government capabilities. The Washington Post collaborated with WikiLeaks in their release and reporting of the Spy files. The first in what we can expect to be a series of reports from WaPo describes trade show events and tech conferences offering “the latest tracking, monitoring and eavesdropping technology each year.” The events are often closed to journalists and members of the public, while attendees include “the FBI, the Secret Service and every branch of the military, along with the IRS, Agriculture Department, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Postal Inspection Service.” None of whom would comment to the Washington Post about their attendance.
On offer were products that allow users to track hundreds of cellphones at once, read e-mails by the tens of thousands, even get a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to police — or anyone else who buys the software. One product uses phony updates for iTunes and other popular programs to infiltrate personal computers.
These products are used by the U.S. government for their purposes. But it is also sent to foreign governments like Syria, China, and many others. The article details the incident of a Syrian activist and blogger who advocated for human rights, but Syria’s secret police tracked his website and began summoning him for regular interrogations that involved threats of torture and a day in solitary confinement. Worth a read.