Saturday, December 16, 2006

Private Eyes are Watching You--And Ears are Listening

The government has a whole new way of bugging your conversations, and they don’t have to get into your house or office to do it. If you have a cell phone, it’s possible for someone to listen in on your conversations—not just your phone conversations. The microphone on your cell phone can be used as a bug to pick up any sounds in the near vicinity, even if your phone is turned off.

Apparently, if an agency decides to investigate you, they can have your cellular provider download some software to your phone, making the microphone active at all times. According to an article at CNET, “The U.S. Commerce Department's security office warns that ‘a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone.’ An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can ‘remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner's knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call.’” The only way to deactivate the bug is to take the battery out of the phone and leave it out. Law enforcement agencies need a court order to be able to conduct such surveillance, but this past summer, we learned just how broad is the government's scope in collecting information.

When I read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I thought it was really farfetched that the TV could keep track of what people were doing inside their homes, but it’s totally within the realm of possibility. The next thing you know, we’ll hear that government agencies have been working with satellite and cable TV providers to download software into our cable and satellite receiver boxes in order to listen in on our conversations.

Scary stuff.


Tony Arnold said...

The only real protection a citizen has against government surveilance is the sheer volume of crap they have to wade through once they start monitoring anything.

Who would have thought that having a cell provider with crappy service would be a good thing?

Can you see the next cell ad?

"Acme cellular, more taps...I mean more bars than any other."

JMG said...


I'm going to start leaving my phone next to the radio.