60-Second Tech

Whistleblowers, Courts Reveal Surveillance Secrets

The year brought numerous revelations about government surveillance on ordinary citizens. Do we care? Larry Greenemeier reports.

One of the year’s biggest stories was the revelation of widespread surveillance by the government. We learned about the NSA’s efforts to weaken cryptography standards, eavesdrop on electronic communications and gather billions of cell phone records.

Then came news that what seemed like an urban legend is actually true: the FBI can remotely activate a computer’s digital camera to spy on the user—without turning on the light that indicates the camera is live. That news comes courtesy of court documents unearthed by The Washington Post. The FBI says they use this not-at-all-hidden camera trick to find transient terrorists.

The use of webcams for spying comes as no shock to anyone who followed the 2010 case of a school district in suburban Philadelphia that was busted for using school-issued laptops to watch students at home. Yes, lawsuits are underway

So what happens now that everyone knows what the government’s been doing? Will 2014 see attempts to curb data collection? Or have people grown comfortable with the demise of privacy?

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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