CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Thu Apr 5 08:48:23 PDT 2012

CIA Chief: Webll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher

By Spencer Ackerman March 15, 2012 | 5:35 pm | 

Categories: Info War, Spies, Secrecy and Surveillance

CIA Director David Petraeus unwinds with some Wii Golf, 2008. Photo:

More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet,
from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches.
CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an bInternet of
Thingsb b that is, wired devices b at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIAbs
venture capital firm. bbTransformationalb is an overused word, but I do
believe it properly applies to these technologies,b Petraeus enthused,
bparticularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.b

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if youbre a bperson
of interestb to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug
in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the bsmart
home,b youbd be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can
intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust
your living roombs ambiance.

bItems 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 b all connected
to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power
computing,b Petraeus said, bthe latter now going to cloud computing, in many
areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices bchange our notions of
secrecyb and prompt a rethink of bour notions of identity and secrecy.b All
of which is true b if convenient for a CIA director.

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.

Thatbs not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. Hebs interested in
creating new online identities for his undercover spies b and sweeping away
the bdigital footprintsb of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

bProud 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,b
Petraeus observed. bMoreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital
footprint for new identities for some officers.b

Itbs hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spybs friend. But
Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate
your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasnbt been on Facebook
since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover
operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

Danger Room senior reporter Spencer Ackerman recently won the 2012 National
Magazine Award for Reporting in Digital Media.

Follow @attackerman and @dangerroom on Twitter.

Tags: CIA, David Petraeus, Facebook, In-Q-Tel, Info War 

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