WikiLeaks CIA docs show it’s not 2017, it’s 1984. Now what?

Originally published March 11, 2017

By Ian Sherr

This past week, we learned what’s in the new health care law being crafted by Congress, we found out IBM can cram a lot of data onto a single atom, and… what else?

Oh yeah, your TV could be spying on you.

And so could your phone, your tablet and your friggin’ car.

It all came from more than 8,000 top secret documents reportedly from the Central Intelligence Agency and released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday. Aside from scaring the bejesus out of us, it also brought new life into our collective gallows humor and tendency to quote from George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984.”

That’s the novel where people are constantly spied on by Big Brother, the omnipresent all-seeing government. One of the most potent tools in its arsenal was a “telescreen,” or a television that can spy on you.

So, yeah, welcome to the future.

It turns out the fantastical tech we’ve brought into our lives, from phones that sit on our nightstands to tablets that entertain our kids, also have cameras and microphones that can be used to spy on us.

What’s even more sigh-inducing than all these new revelations — which are being compared to 2013’s shocking Edward Snowden leaks involving the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs — is how shoulder-shrug-emoji everyone is about it.

The truth is that even though CNET and CBS haven’t so far confirmed the authenticity of the WikiLeaks documents, and the CIA isn’t supposed to spy on us domestically, these disclosures are a kind of confirmation of things hackers have been telling us for years.

“We know we have a spy agency,” said Dan Petro, an associate at security research firm Biship Fox.

Even the CIA basically said, “Yeah, so what?”

“It is the CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad,” Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “America deserves nothing less.”

A decade ago, talk of this type of spying was relegated to conspiracy theorists and the “tinfoil hat” crowd. (Here’s a handy video showing how to make one, if you’d like.) Now it’s just part of everyday life.

And just like the people in “1984,” it turns out there isn’t much we can do about all this, aside from convincing government to change.

Though Microsoft, Google and Apple say making sure your software is up to date should keep you safe, it’s hard not to feel like maybe the only true answer would be to just ditch our tech once and for all.

OK, I know: A tech news and reviews site telling you to ditch tech is pretty ironic. But these are the times we live in. Big Brother is watching. No amount of how-to-ing is going to solve this one.

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