George, Meet Orwell
Wikileaks is back with The Spyfiles, a database “of hundreds of documents from as many as 160 intelligence contractors in the mass surveillance industry.”
The release is being funneled through a number of organizations: ARD in Germany, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK, The Hindu in India, L’Espresso in Italy, OWNI in France and the Washington Post in the US.
The data was gathered in conjunction with Bugged Planet and Privacy International.
International surveillance companies are based in the more technologically sophisticated countries, and they sell their technology on to every country of the world. This industry is, in practice, unregulated. Intelligence agencies, military forces and police authorities are able to silently, and on mass, and secretly intercept calls and take over computers without the help or knowledge of the telecommunication providers. Users’ physical location can be tracked if they are carrying a mobile phone, even if it is only on stand by.
But the WikiLeaks Spy Files are more than just about ’good Western countries’ exporting to ’bad developing world countries’. Western companies are also selling a vast range of mass surveillance equipment to Western intelligence agencies. In traditional spy stories, intelligence agencies like MI5 bug the phone of one or two people of interest. In the last ten years systems for indiscriminate, mass surveillance have become the norm. Intelligence companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters. Systems to infect every Facebook user, or smart-phone owner of an entire population group are on the intelligence market.
Image: Screenshot of The United Nations of Surveillance, an interactive map by OWNI that lets users explore companies offering surveillance technology around the world.