Opinion: The CIA, your smart TV and you

Posted on Mar 9 2017 - 8:01am by James Halbrook

I have long dreaded this day. I was hoping that it wouldn’t come, but it’s here. It’s time to don our tinfoil hats, because it looks like that crazy uncle of ours who always said, “They’re listening to us!” was right. Except the “they” he is talking about may be much closer than we could have imagined.

In a recently released document collection, WikiLeaks claims the CIA can infiltrate everything from Android phones to Samsung smart televisions. The CIA wrote a program called Weeping Angel that puts the Samsung TV into a false off state, in which it proceeds to collect conversations and send them to a CIA server. I hesitate to even imagine how easily the CIA can collect data from my Google Home, whose job it is to literally listen to everything I say. The same can be said about Amazon’s Alexa, but that’s not really the point. The point is how far the CIA is taking this whole “spying on its people” thing. If it is getting so creative as to use TVs to collect information, I imagine soon I won’t be able to trust my microwave. I mean … not that I talk to my microwave often.  

Anyway, an alarming number of people are taking a lethargic approach to this. A lot of people say something like, “Well, if I have nothing to hide, I don’t need to worry, right?” No! Not right! Not caring about the right to privacy is like saying you don’t care about your right to free speech because you have nothing to say. Further, the notion that one’s country is doing so much spying on its citizens should incite fury. This is America! The land of the free! The only other countries that can even compete with this level of intrusion are Russia and China.  

The only positive I could see of such intense spying would be if this spying actually stopped crime and terrorism. One statistic President Donald Trump has been touting lately is how Chicago has had its steepest murder rate increase in the last 50 years. Since the induction of the Patriot Act in 2001, we have had the largest mass shooting on United States soil in Orlando, Florida, the Boston Bombings and the 2015 Chattanooga Shootings, just to name a few.  Since 2010, there have been 41 acts of terrorism in the United States. One would think that with such intense surveillance that has been unmasked, the United States would be more protected. According to The Intercept, which, admittedly, does lean left, there has been no evidence that National Security Agency or CIA mass surveillance has thwarted any large- or medium-scale terrorist plots.  

Even further, the United States does not even rank among the highest targeted countries. On the Global Terrorism Index, an attempt to quantify how much terrorist activity occurs in a country, the United States ranks 34th, far behind China and Russia, which sit at 23 and 24, respectively.  So, to sum everything up, the CIA is allegedly hacking televisions to spy on us, and it hasn’t been shown to prevent the terrorism that we’re not highly at risk for anyway.  

James Halbrook is a sophomore chemical engineering major from Brandon.