Smartphones making spying easier.
Voice call records over five years. Places you visited the last year. Video calls you made in the last three months. Emails you sent in the last six days and all online chats in the last hour. These, and more, could be accessed by someone right now.
“You’re already a walking sensor platform,” CIA’s chief technology officer Ira Hunt told his audience at a data conference earlier this year. For spy agencies, people with smartphones can be considered equivalent to being ‘bugged,’ where data can be extracted as and when desired.
The recent proliferation of smartphones has made it easier for agencies to spy on people. It gives them an additional channel to monitor apart from snooping devices plugged to core telecom networks. Smartphones are a treasure trove of information detailing user activity. Our phones today collect more and varied data than a mobile phone made a decade ago. The multitude of sensors on a smartphone can track the tiniest physical movement and ‘listen to’ and ‘see’ surroundings. Phones possess histories of files shared, social networks visited, emails sent and transactions made. Intercepting this data is like accessing a person’s dossier of interaction.
But the spying doesn’t end at intercepting communication in transit or by collecting data in consumers’ smart phones. It also ropes in telecom service providers who handle millions of calls daily and maintain both call records and contents of calls. Documents Snowden leaked showed that the US government had asked the giant Verizon to hand over all its phone records. Similarly in India, provisions in licenses granted by the telecom department to ISPs and telecom firms allow the Indian government to directly access user records kept by these firms.
There have been a thousand films made on the spying genre. ME AND MOBILE focuses on a few recent ones that had a lasting impact.