Anti-secrecy activist and founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has claimed that anyone who uses a modern smartphone or email service is prey to mass surveillance by governments.
Speaking on the panel of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University London, Assange accused the “international mass surveillance industy” of selling equipment and technology to “dictators and democracies alike in order to intercept entire populations".
“That statement sounds like it’s something from Hollywood. That statement sounds like it could only be science fiction,” he said. He then turned to the audience and asked: “Who here has an iPhone? Who here has a BlackBerry? Who here uses Gmail?”
As hands shot up among the massed ranks of students, Assange told them: “Well, you’re all screwed.”
Assange’s frank but serious remarks came as new documents were recently released on the WikiLeaks site, including manuals for surveillance technologies allegedly sold by western companies to oppressive regimes and dictatorships in the Middle-East and Africa to spy on their citizens and worse.
The issue of government surveillance is hardly a new one and is a very hotly debated topic right here in the UK. However, the knowledge that smartphone and email users are not spared and that their personal information may be sold by intelligence contractors raises some serious concerns over the amount of actual privacy actually enjoyed by citizens of ‘free’ nations.
According to WikiLeaks: “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 smartphone owner of an entire population group are on the intelligence market."
How the public will react to this revelation remains to be seen. It is, however, quite obvious those devices that we carry with us and rely on to communicate freely may not be so free after all.