Is There Anything You Can Do About CIA Surveillance, Or Is It Game Over?
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First, it was wiretaps and men in black sedans. Assassinations, “democratic” coups. Then came television and radio, and manipulating the press via cleverly inserted news items.

It was all tinfoil hat stuff at first, but disclosures and declassifications have proved that the old conspiracy “theories” were anything but (and it seems tinfoil is actually useful Trust the Tinfoil: 5 Ways to Protect Against Remote Radio and RFID Hacks Trust the Tinfoil: 5 Ways to Protect Against Remote Radio and RFID Hacks RFID chips are everywhere, from in-store tags to smartphones. As cheap RFID enabled products continue to proliferate you need to know the best ways to protect yourself from the criminals. Read More ). And now we have Vault 7 (a vast collection of data being released by WikiLeaks CIA Hacking & Vault 7: Your Guide to the Latest WikiLeaks Release CIA Hacking & Vault 7: Your Guide to the Latest WikiLeaks Release Everyone is talking about WikiLeaks -- again! But the CIA isn't really watching you via your smart TV, is it? Surely the leaked documents are fakes? Or perhaps it's more complicated than that. Read More ), which demonstrates the immense reach of the surveillance state across North America and Europe. Frankly, it’s an apparatus that the Nazis, Stasi, and KGB would have sold their souls for.

So, what can you do about it? Or has the surveillance state finally won?

Separate Truth From Fiction

The first thing to do is know the facts. Do some reading, and make a judgement. You need to separate the fiction from the reality.

For example, every single mobile app is not tracking you or recording you. However, that doesn’t mean that they cannot be hacked, or rewritten, to do just that. Similarly, most Smart TV sets Is a Smart TV Worth It in 2017? 6 Things to Check Before You Buy Is a Smart TV Worth It in 2017? 6 Things to Check Before You Buy These days, almost every TV is "smart" in some capacity, but there are several important features to look out for! Here's why 2017 is the best year yet for purchasing a smart TV. Read More will not be recording audio (or video) from your home. But some of them can.

twitter samsung smart tv policy

It’s not a great situation. But hysteria can make matters worse. For example, there is currently no evidence that smart TVs are being used for blanket surveillance. It is more likely these devices can be employed as observation points in a targeted operation.

Who is doing the targeting and why might they be interested?

Understand Who Is Listening (And Why)

Many security agencies can operate surveillance. It’s not just those in the U.S. Thanks to the “Five Eyes” arrangement, agencies from the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — the anglosphere — can share surveillance with each other and the U.S.

In short, anyone could be listening to you, observing you on Facebook, reading your emails, and monitoring your phone calls. But why?

While the technology is in place across Western civilization for a panopticon approach to surveillance, it lacks focus. There is no Minority Report-style prediction in place to help find criminals and terrorists.

cia surveillance analyst
Image Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky via Shutterstock

Instead, security agency employees must make decisions, based on intelligence, and resources. In short, if you’re not up to no good, you’re not a risk, and you’re not being surveilled. Nice, right?

Well, no, not really. For starters, someone you’re associated with might be identified as a risk. Meanwhile, a vehicle you own may have been involved in a criminal incident linked to a person of interest. Any number of things can flag you up. It will take an intelligent security analyst with adequate research time to safely discount you. If they’re busy looking for a terror suspect, this might be time they don’t have.

And that’s really where it stops. While there might be some operational hierarchy, there’s no oversight. Regulations are not applied to surveillance. In short, if you’re a suspect, it’s open season on you.

Protect Your Online Transactions as Best You Can

It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying something online, or you’re simply engaging in a chat room. Transactions — the exchange of data, whether that be thoughts or money — take place online all the time. It’s the very nature of communication.

So, when we say to “protect your online transactions,” what we mean is “Use a VPN” (specifically, one of these The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More and pay using Bitcoin How Does Bitcoin Work? How Does Bitcoin Work? About a year ago when the Bitcoin train was just starting to gather steam, a friend turned to me and asked, "So why can't you just copy a Bitcoin?" Read More if you’re seriously concerned about privacy). Virtual Private Networks are the ideal way to obfuscate your online activity 3 Ways a VPN Can Shield You From Big Brother's Surveillance Panopticon 3 Ways a VPN Can Shield You From Big Brother's Surveillance Panopticon Not convinced that you need a VPN? Here are three surprising reasons why a virtual private network should be the cornerstone of your security. Read More , away from prying security agencies. And while many VPN services will divulge your activity when subpoenaed, if it gets to that stage then you’re probably already a dangerous criminal.

hide ip address with vpn
Image Credit: Denys Prykhodov via Shutterstock

However, it goes further than using a VPN. Every single online account you create can be traced to you. To your IP address, which means all the way back to your PC, your smartphone, your tablet, your Kodi box. When you buy online from Amazon, you use an account with your name and address. If a security agency needs to find out what you’ve been buying, and where from, they can.

Short of creating a completely separate online identity (which if uncovered would immediately look suspicious), there is little you can do. If you wish to avoid this type of surveillance, it might be time to go completely off the grid.

Support Whistleblowers and Digital Rights Advocates

The fear of overt surveillance can be a massive problem. Psychologically, it has been considered to affect delusions of those incapable of accepting the truth.

(That truth being that your government is paranoid.)

However, the fear should not be internalized. Instead, it should be acted upon. There are several ways in which you can contribute to the push towards less surveillance.

You can begin by unlearning what you think you know about Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) and Edward Snowden Setting the Record Straight on Edward Snowden and the Paris Attacks Setting the Record Straight on Edward Snowden and the Paris Attacks In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, there's been a great deal of discussion in the United States and around the world about data surveillance programs. Is Edward Snowden really responsible? Read More . These people were not motivated by greed or affection to a foreign power. Instead, they were motivated by concern that the apparatus they were part of was working to the detriment of the American people. Other privacy advocates are available, however — you’ll find many of them on Twitter Snowden's on Twitter, Here Are 7 More Privacy Advocates to Follow Snowden's on Twitter, Here Are 7 More Privacy Advocates to Follow Snowden is hardly the only privacy advocate on Twitter, or the world's leading authority on the subject. The social network has several prominent voices who care about user data and how to protect it. Read More .

security cia surveillance edward snowden
Image Credit: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films via Wikimedia Commons

And then there’s the divisive Julian Assange. Ignore him totally, if it helps, but understand that WikiLeaks is merely a repository for whistleblowers View the Most Damaging WikiLeaks, All on One Tidy Website View the Most Damaging WikiLeaks, All on One Tidy Website WikiLeaks is a monster to digest. There's so much information to pore over, and who has that kind of time? So just use this site to see the worst leaks. Read More . Publicly it may seem more political than previously, but look beyond the spin and read the materials wherever possible.

While we’re here, it’s time to show some respect for whistleblowers. Without people breaking ranks, the situation concerning the massive surveillance across North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand would remain a secret. We know more now, and that is a good thing. Citizens should not be lied to by the people they elect to govern.

Finally, give your support to anti-surveillance advocacy groups. Two groups in particular are doing some good work:

  • The Open Rights Group — Based in the U.K. but operating internationally, this group aims to fight for your digital rights.
  • Stop Watching Us — This American group is actively campaigning for the end of NSA spying and other surveillance, and regularly organizes protests and rallies.

Don’t Let This Be the End of Privacy

Gaining understanding is the most important thing you can do. It is the foundation upon which every future privacy-related decision you make should be built.

You’re not helpless. It might seem as though your every move is being recorded by security services, but it’s largely useless data unless you become “of interest.” Even then, there are steps you can take to obfuscate your online activity.

Supporting groups who want to put an end to this surveillance is a good tactic. Going offline entirely is another. It’s extreme, and it’s a step you might not want to take, but it is possible. As long as you have that right, they haven’t won yet.

Freedom and privacy can be regained.

But what do you think? Do these revelations surprise you, or have you given up on the notion of privacy online? Let us know what you think below.

Image Credit: LifetimeStock via Shutterstock

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  1. ReadandShare
    July 26, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    "Frankly, it’s an apparatus that the Nazis, Stasi, and KGB would have sold their souls for."

    One big difference: East German and Russian citizenry quickly learned to 'read between the lines' of their official news, pronouncements and such. But many (or maybe even most) Americans still trust their government leadership and bureaucrats - viewing naysayers as unpatriotic 'traitors and haters'.

    I sometimes think we Americans are wising up to the fact that our own government is also far from altruistic. But then, I look at the diehard supporters of our two political parties (but especially the GOP and Trump supporters) and I am not so sure.

  2. Neoalfa
    July 26, 2017 at 7:32 am

    That only means that actual wrongdoers will seek other methods to get their things done. Methods more difficult to track. Sneakernets will become commonplace and because of of cryptocurrencies, tracking the flow of money of criminal organization will be a challenge in and of itself.

    Strictly speaking, those who are going to get monitored are ordinary people, making the entire endeavor an exercise in futility as far as security is concerned and a downright breach of privacy to everyone else.

  3. dragonmouth
    July 26, 2017 at 12:40 am

    "there is currently no evidence that smart TVs are being used for blanket surveillance"
    There also was no evidence about NSA until Snowden provided it.

    "anyone could be listening to you, observing you on Facebook, reading your emails, and monitoring your phone calls. But why?"
    There are as many reasons why as there are entities collecting the data. We know why governments and their alphabet agencies collect data, but why do Google, Facebook, Apple, and thousands of private companies?!

    " We know more now, and that is a good thing. "
    So do the surveillers, and that is a BAD thing.

    "Citizens should not be lied to by the people they elect to govern."
    But they are. Being able to lie to one and all with a straight face is part of the definition of "politician". It is a REQUIREMENT for diplomats. I am fairly certain that there hasn't been an honest politician since the job was invented. Lying to the constituents should be punishable by death on the spot. Then maybe the politicians will stop lying to the citizens.

    "Don’t Let This Be the End of Privacy"
    TOO LATE! That bell cannot be un-rung. Too many entities know too much about us already and have the data stored in too many places.

    "privacy can be regained"
    That would require a MAJOR change in human behaviour. Human are by nature curious, inquisitive, nosy busy-bodies.

  4. Hildy J
    July 25, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    "In short, if you’re not up to no good, you’re not a risk, and you’re not being surveilled."

    I doubt that. Storage is cheap, processing is cheap, broad surveillance is cheap; targeted surveillance is expensive. What that means is that you probably are being surveilled to some degree but nobody is looking at your data unless they are interested in you.

    Their interest may depend on your data setting off red flags of some sort. OTOH, their have been cases (some proven, some alleged) of people with access looking up ex-partners and neighbors. The use of the data for commercial and political purposes has also been alleged.

    As long as the laws establishing Big Brother exist, you can assume He's watching and you can only hope He's looking the other way.