Support Marketplace

WikiLeaks returns

If you go to the WikiLeaks homepage, the first thing you’ll see is a call for donations. As reported last month, it is pretty much out of cash. But, if you scroll down a little, you’ll also see a new batch of data being distributed with today’s date. The latest info-dump is a collaboration with news agencies around the world, including the Washington Post, here in the U.S.
 
From the WikiLeaks blog: “Today WikiLeaks began releasing a database of hundreds of documents from as many as 160 intelligence contractors in the mass surveillance industry.” WikiLeaks says this is just the beginning of what it sees as western countries profiting by an unregulated survelliance industry. 
So this sounds like a reaction to the political unrest of the past year, especially the Arab Spring, but read on... again from WikiLeaks:
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.
So far, surveillance companies like Gamma Corporation, Amesys, VASTech, Ipoque, Trovicor, and Blue Coat Technologies are being called to task. More are sure to follow.

The Washington Post has an article focused on the Wiretappers’ Ball, a series of annual conventions yielding over $5 billion. The Post has this to say about this past October’s Ball in Bethesda, Md.: “On offer were products that allow users to track hundreds of cellphones at once, read e-mails by the tens of thousands, even get a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to police — or anyone else who buys the software. One product uses phony updates for iTunes and other popular programs to take control of personal computers.

We talked to Gary Lucas, who organizes the conferences, in August, who adds the main defense these companies use is something like this: “We don't sell equipment to any country," he said. "We provide a venue for vendors to present their products, do training, and the vendors make that decision who they want to sell to.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey is planning to introduce a bill in the House that would limit the export of these kind of technologies.

About the author

Marc Sanchez is the technical director and associate producer for Marketplace Tech Report where he is responsible for shaping the sound of the show.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...