Self-Bugging: Say Hi To The NSA For Me!

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him. —Cardinal Richelieu

You heard that they heard what you were saying. Apple contractors, employees, and, who knows, their friends.

Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or “grading”, the company’s Siri voice assistant, the Guardian has learned.

Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. They are tasked with grading the responses on a variety of factors, including whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could be expected to help with and whether Siri’s response was appropriate.

Apple keeps the rest for listening to on long winter’s evenings. Amazon does the same. And the Lord only knows how often “they” turn on remotely your cellphone microphone.

Bob Ludwick wrote to say this to his daughter, which I thought we all might take an interest in.

First, contemporary storage devices, available to anyone from Best Buy:

8 TB, $140, 48 TB, $2513: (USB 3.1 supplies a maximum of 100w).

Remember that at ~4 kB/page, 1 MB represents a 250 page novel. 1 GB is a thousand novels. And one TB is good for a million novels. So for $140 from Best Buy you can have 8 million ‘standard sized novels’ at your fingertips, running off the battery in your laptop.

If you are interested in saving phone conversations, the phone company sends your voice anywhere in the world at a rate of 8 kb/sec. Max. Sometimes, if the circuits are heavily loaded, they ‘steal bits’ and reduce the rate well below 8 kb/sec.

With that in mind our 8 TB hard drive will store 8e12/8e3 or 1e9 seconds of phone conversations.

Now there are 86,400 seconds/day and 365 days/year, so if you call someone and talk 24/7/365, your $140 drive will store a bit over 31 years worth of your phone conversations. Or, looking at it another way, if you spend 30 minutes a day on the phone it will handle your phone usage for over 1520 years. Or ALL the phone traffic of 1500 people for a year. For $120. Using power from a USB port.

That is what you can do on a whim, at the drop of a credit card.

The NSA recently completed the Utah Data Center. This is what they had to say about it at the Unclassified level: “Our Utah ‘massive data repository’ is designed to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.”

Keep in mind that this is only ONE of the NSA data collection, storage, and processing sites. They have others. And there are MANY ‘security agencies’, each with their own ‘in house’ data collection, storage, and processing centers.

Note what NSA says, at the unclassified level, that they collect and process at the Utah Data Center.

Where do they get it?

Well, for years they got it from facilities like this one: The NSA’s Spy Hub in New York, Hidden in Plain Sight.

(Remember the famous denial that Trump had been wiretapped? Probably technically true. Wire tapping individual phones is not necessary when you have ALL phone traffic on file, supercomputers to search it with, and a cadre of ‘deep state’ supporters (with a visceral hatred of Trump AND his supporters-added just now) in place to do the searching.)

Now, domestic institutions and businesses are required, as a matter of law, to make the above information available to the government.

Feel safer now?

I might add that the proliferation of ‘Smart TV’s’, hooked to the internet 24/7/365, responding to ‘voice controlled handsets’, waiting patiently 24/7/365 to respond to voice commands such as ‘Find ESPN’, phones with live mikes and live cameras, hooked to the internet 24/7/365, waiting patiently to hear ‘Hey SIRI, where is the closest pizza restaurant?’, and newer cars responding to ‘voice commands’ has made essentially every person in the country ‘self-bugging’.

EVERY conversation in the presence of a ‘Smart TV’ is available to the internet. Does anyone care? Does the government want it? Everyone in possession of a ‘Smart Phone’, which is essentially everyone in the country over the age of 4, is carrying around a live mike and a live cameras, whose output goes to the internet. (Could that be the reason that Smart TV’s and Smart Phones are so cheap?) Everyone driving or riding in a modern car is conversing in the presence of a live mike, which is hooked to the internet. Which is archived by the government and searched by government entities who may have an interest in what you are doing, what you are saying, and who you are doing and saying it with.

The government doesn’t even have to sneak into your house or car to bug them. All it has to do is continue doing what it says openly that it IS doing: archiving ALL electronic transactions, intentional and unintentional, and analyzing them for ‘threats’. Or, as we have learned in the age of Obama, analyzing them for material that can be used against political enemies.

At the NSA parody site they print these words, which I promise I am not making up:

Your Data: If You Have Nothing to Hide, You Have Nothing to Fear

If you listen closely enough, you can just hear on the wind the soft laugh of Cardinal Richelieu.

Update This is not parody: British spies must have ‘backdoor’ access to encrypted Facebook and WhatsApp messages to combat child abuse and terrorism, spy chiefs will demand at ‘Five Eyes’ security summit. And, of course, don’t forget what Five Eyes is.

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12 Thoughts

  1. Sorry, but not “everyone” has a smart phone. I have one stupid smart phone that cannot connect to my wifi at home (I won’t give it the password) and I take it nowhere. Siri and Cortana are shut off on the computers, the cameras covered (yet still, I get those emails saying they have incriminating video from my computer to send to my contact list—I have none—and social media friends—I also have none. You would have to be on social media for that, right?). My TV was $138 from Walmart and can just manage to pick up channels. Connection to say Apple TV is never going to happen. My cars are all pre-2001 and low-end models with no electronic devices. Heck, the 1995 Subaru has roll-up windows and manual door locks! Not all of us live in a fish bowl. Note, however, I am in no way a Luddite. I have worked IT and can write simple programs for Windows computers. I worked on a computer as part of my business when I had one. I worked in several businesses maintaining databases, data entry, even running the ancient Vax computer (reel to reel) to look for evil oil. In addition, I repaired computers and I use a digital camera (pictures are stored on those things called DVD’s, not in the cloud. I have no access to, nor any intention to using the cloud.) Heck, I still write my blood sugars down on paper in addition to the meter keeping the information. When I started with computers in 1984, I learned what “backup” meant and I know what tech can do to privacy. The government is going to have to hide outside my window to find out what I’m up to (Yes, Google maps WILL tell them where I live, I know that.) Good luck with that. Besides, I have a boring life. They’ll go elsewhere in a couple of hours.

  2. Spot on, Professor Briggs!

    In the years after 9/11, “conservatives,” flush with fervor to take out “terrorists” eagerly agreed to new laws that expanded pervasive electronic domestic surveillance.

    The common “conservative” justification for this unconstitutional search and seizure regime was “Sharia,” or “jihad.”

    Like Cassandra, I warned colleagues, even as we battled actual terrorists, that this Brave New World would have no effect on foreign terrorists. It was clear that this tool, regardless of original intent, would have near zero effect on actual terrorists. It was clear that the surveillance of communications and activities would surely be turned against American political enemies. Scoff, scoff! said the CT professionals, totally misunderstanding the hearts and souls of the Deep State actors.

    Fast forward 19 years. The Deep State is revealed for all to see. They have used and abused their massive surveillance capabilities in an attempt to destroy a non-PC, non-neocon political candidate, and then President, imprisoning political figures, destroying lives and careers in the process.

    Few to no jihad terrorist plots have been disrupted by the surveillance. Instead, like kids with a new toy, the Deep State turns these tools into quick and easy public relations wins. They scan the databases to find crazy or stupid or otherwise addled men who post online (or speak of on their smart phones) crazy talk. They swarm around these poor schmucks, just as they did with Papadapolous, and entrap them. The headlines: “Terrorist arrested with anti-aircraft missiles near airport” make for great publicity. But it’s fake.

    Meanwhile, the lash-up between Big Tech and the PC/neocon surveillance state continues apace. Non-PC, non-neocon political expressions are tagged as “racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, white nationalist, hate speech,” and banned from various PC platforms. Snitches scour digital history to identify transgressions of PC taboos. Pogroms act on the details and punish those who step off the approved PC-pathway for word usage, and rightthink. Careers ended, school acceptances withdrawn, public shaming, and worse.

    We stumbled into this Brave New World, naively believing the government’s assurances that they were making us “safe.”

    Where will this lead? Who will dissent? Fancy becoming China anyone?

  3. The Govt has laws that can & do reign it in … for the most part …

    Commercial industry can and does collect arguably far more than the Govt — the NSA parody spoof site gave a nod to this by citing use of warrants and backdoors. For some reason human psychology seems more comfortable with commercial firms collecting reams of personal data (assuming people even think about the implications of that at all). Al Frankenstein actually had a fair amount of good info & initiatives to try to regulate commercial data collectors. Like Facebook (‘you are their product’ he correctly warned).

    Your clicks, credit card use patterns, routes traveled as recorded by phone GPS, etc are all compiled. Law enforcement is getting increasingly sophisticated about tapping into such info sources – it’s not just the Feds to worry about.

  4. Kent-

    I totally agree that the 9-11 hysteria was meant to open the Deep State’s maw to devour us. And that ‘the coming ‘Sharia’ monster was the bait. But your continued blindness to the law of unintended consequences makes you blind to the fact that Islam is indeed what it seems. And no amount of denying it will change reality to fit your secular vision of life.

  5. Yikes!! But, God knows everything and it is in Him that we trust. He will protect us in the direst of circumstances as He wills.

    Jesus said for us to count the cost and then, follow Him. Here we go!!! The continual war in the spirit being made manifest in the earth and we are in the middle of it.

    Use good sense with the information provided, and Use and Wear Christ’s armour every day:
    Ephesians 6….Put on the Helmet of His Salvation (all the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection); the Breastplate of His Righteousness (our right standing in Jesus before God our Father); the Belt of His Truth (Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life); the shoes of the Gospel of His Peace (peace between God and man as man is willing); take up the Shield of Jesus’ Faith (His utter trust in God our Father and for us also, in Jesus and the Holy Spirit); and take hold of the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword.

    God bless, C-Marie

  6. oldies but goodies:

    “the NSA is now funding research not only in cryptography, but in all areas of advanced mathematics. if you’d like a circular describing these new research opportunities, just pick up your phone, call your mother, and ask for one.”

    “the nsa is the only branch of government that listens.”

  7. John,

    Thanks for your note.

    Any evidence to back up your assertions? Since I live in reality, I’m very interested in assessing any evidence of what’s happening here in reality.

    Not the fevered imaginings of foreign influence operators whose goal is to gin up Americans’ hatred of the unknown to justify never-ending war for their interests. But real evidence.

    Blind to unintended consequences? Blind to facts? Pretty much the exact opposite of my expertise and approach to life. Eyes wide open, drinking in reality, and dealing with it for the last 35 years.

    Totally aware of foreign influence operations that confuse Americans. Blind? No.

    Thanks!

  8. Kent-
    No, no. you don’t get it. You can see everything under the sun but the One Who
    made it. That makes you blind to the reality behind materiality. As for your 35 years, you’re a just a pup. Look up, and wise up.

  9. Hmmmm…you might want to re-think your whole analytical worldview. “Pup?!” Flattery will get you nowhere!

    It’s been 35 years since I’ve been plugged in to reality. Took me a couple decades to explore and accumulate observations and experiences enough to begin confirming hypotheses and the scales fell from my eyes.

    When you reach 1/10 my experience, you may have something to say that might be interesting. Until then, happy to provide guidance.

    All the best!

  10. Okay Kent, you’ve been neck deep in it for awhile so who do we trust?
    Can anybody in government or the intelligence community even be trusted?
    Trust no one has become my new way of thinking and it sucks to feel that way about my government but it seems like the best approach these days.

  11. Mike,

    That’s a great question. This month I did a presentation on the Intelligence Community, including a career fair, with high school students from around the country. They come to DC for a private company’s week-long “National Security” seminar. Most of them are interested in exploring working for the IC.

    I try to present a reality-based, non-biased view of the work–good and bad.

    And the kids are plugged in to the news and developments in their lifetimes (all were born after 9/11/2001).

    There’s always a question, and a need to discuss, Snowden and his revelations.

    With those kids, I share a less direct assessment. I tell them that the IC is doing the best it can to balance our country’s security with the danger of the threats we face.

    We can be a little more upfront here, though. Leaders of the IC, with John Brennan in the forefront, mis-used their positions of trust for political purposes. They misused many tools of the post-9/11 surveillance state to target their political rival, Donald Trump. Brennan appears to have overseen a human intelligence operation that used foreign agents and foreign intelligence operatives, as well as American intel and law enforcement agents and operatives, in attempts to entrap Trump associates in the appearance of Russian influence.

    The misuse included falsely claiming Trump associates were foreign agents, in order to justify electronic surveillance of their communications (which would include all internet, email, phone, cell phone, and any other physical communications, too), physical surveillance, and dispatching intelligence operatives under various covers to engage the targets.

    This is engregious, and totally unprecedented in the history of the US IC.

    Even if this malfeasance is exposed and punished, the bubble has been popped. Pandora’s box is open. Continued political use of the IC is all but inevitable.

    The Deep State–an unelected, unaccountable sea of bureaucrats–works under the cloak of classification and secrecy. You can believe that such a blanket cloak of insurance that your deeds will never be revealed does not encourage those bureaucrats to do what’s right for the country. Internal politics, and now party politics, drive the Deep State.

    Be skeptical. Don’t assume that government bureaucrats, regardless of agency or political affiliation, are pure and apolitical. Beware foreign entanglements and influence. There is less and less focus on what’s good for America.

    A few more details in my Newsmax column:

    http://www.newsmax.com/kentclizbe/cia-fbi-counterterrorism/2019/05/23/id/917339/

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