It appears that the government’s access to secret courts and administrative procedures that prevent the subject from knowing they are under surveillance poses a clear and present danger. It appears that game makers such as Microsoft now have the capabilities to spy on you using position-sensing cameras whose resolution can even determine pulse rates and eye blinks. And, as we have just learned, Microsoft and other hardware/software vendors may be participating in government programs to give them unrestricted access to your electronics with no chance to challenge a surveillance warrant.
What makes these gaming consoles deeply disturbing is that some are always connected to power sources, some require a mandatory connection to the internet every 24-hours, and the camera system cannot be disabled easily. An almost perfect description for George Orwell’s Big Brother.
And, I am not the only one concerned …
New Xbox by NSA partner Microsoft will watch you 24/7
Possible privacy violations by Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One have come under new scrutiny since it was revealed Thursday that the tech giant was a crucial partner in an expansive Internet surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency and involving Silicon Valley’s biggest players.
One of the console’s key features is the full integration of the Kinect, a motion sensing camera that allows users to play games, scroll through menus, and generally operate the Xbox just using hand gestures. Microsoft has touted the camera as the hallmark of a new era of interactivity in gaming.
What Microsoft has not promoted, however, is the fact that you will not be able to power on the console without first enabling the Kinect, designed to detect both heartbeats and eye movement. and positioning yourself in front of it.
Disturbingly, a recently published Microsoft patent reveals the Kinect has the capability to determine exactly when users are viewing ads broadcast by the Xbox through its eye movement tracking. Consistent ad viewers would be granted rewards, according to the patent.
Perhaps the feature most worrisome to privacy advocates is the requirement that the Xbox connect to the Internet at least once every 24 hours. Many critics have asserted that Microsoft will follow the lead of other Silicon Valley companies and use their console to gather data about its users, particularly through the Kinect, and collect it through the online connection users can’t avoid.
Microsoft has promised that customers will be able to “pause” the camera’s function, but have put off questions on the precise specifics of their privacy policies. Source: New Xbox by NSA partner Microsoft will watch you 24/7 | The Daily Caller
And, then there is Verizon …
Verizon, another recently discovered partner of the government surveillance mechanism, was also granted a patent that I described in my blog post: LOSING YOUR PRIVACY ONE DEVICE AT A TIME: IS THAT FREEBIE WORTH YOUR FREEDOM? -- Verizon applies for a "big brother" patent which should scare the bejesus out of privacy advocates.
It appears that Verizon has filed a patent application for “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User.” A sophisticated way of saying that Verizon has developed a method to watch and listen to what you might be doing in proximity to a set-top or built-in sensor array, and then using that information to send you targeted advertising.
Behind this innocuous sounding language of the patent, lies a capability that only existed in books on a fictional “big brother” that constantly surveils the home environment on behalf of a totalitarian government. The use of this technology is beyond scary since it can be built into almost any electronic device and monitor political speech and other behaviors that the government may be interested in. One could almost imagine the technology being used to detect a fight between individuals for the purposes of dispatching law enforcement personnel and then using the information to prosecute you for criminal activity.
NSA's Verizon Spying Order Specifically Targeted Americans, Not Foreigners
In a top secret order obtained by the Guardian newspaper and published Wednesday evening, the FBI on the NSA’s behalf demanded that Verizon turn over all metadata for phone records originating in the United States for the three months beginning in late April and ending on the 19th of July. That metadata includes all so-called “non-content” data for millions of American customers’ phone calls, such as the subscriber data, recipients, locations, times and durations of every call made during that period.
Aside from the sheer scope of that surveillance order, reminiscent of the warrantless wiretapping scandal under the Bush administration, the other shocking aspect of the order its target: The order specifically states that only data regarding calls originating in America are to be handed over, not those between foreigners.
“It is hereby ordered that [Verizon Business Network Services'] Custodian of Records shall produce to the National Security Agency…all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” the Guardian’s copy of the order reads. “This Order does not require Verizon to include telephony metadata for communications wholly originating and terminating in foreign countries.” <Source>
Bottom line …
Will you potentially compromise your personal security and safety for the fun of playing rather addictive games? Can you trust Microsoft or any other company when it comes to covert surveillance that can be hacked by evildoers, be they governments or private individuals?
And, for those who have children, what of always-on cameras and surveillance?
While ordinary American should have little to fear from these programs, there exists the possibility that a government employee, contractor, or agent will tap into this flow of information for personal, professional, commercial, or political purposes. These are the people with the keys to the kingdom and they are not all straight and without motive, means, and opportunity. You need look no further than Private Bradley Manning who fed classified data to Wikileaks – ostensibly for personal and ideological reasons. Or, President Obama’s nominee to head the TSA who eventually withdrew his nomination to avoid further embarrassment and disclosures in a Senate confirmation hearing.
Obama’s Nominee to head the TSA …
Erroll Southers, who was serving as an FBI special agent at the time of the censure, asked a co-worker's husband who worked for the San Diego Police Department to run a background check on his ex-wife's boyfriend. Under questioning by [Senator] Collins, Southers said that he has not misused government databases to receive personal information on anyone since the incident and that he would not do so in the future. "I recognize that it was a mistake to have used my official connections to investigate the matter," Southers said.
Southers worked as an FBI special agent from 1984 to 1988. He told lawmakers Tuesday that he left the FBI about six months after the censure for unrelated reasons. The FBI has not provided a copy of the censure to the Senate committee, [Senator] Collins said. <Source>
It does happen and with a frequency that remains hidden lest the government give rise to charges of criminal activity, malfeasance, or a cover-up of wrongdoing.
Now, everybody is denying everything about any surveillance activities. And, how many people listened to OnStar when they swore that their in-car system could not be used for covert surveilance ... right up until the spying capabilities were revealed in a court case in which the authorities activated the microphone in the car without the knowledge of the occupants -- even though they were not making a call or using the system.
Knowledge is responsibility. Something to consider in the upcoming Congressional election – when those who granted legislative indemnification that absolves hardware and software companies for the consequences of wrongdoing should their systems be compromised and do damage to its user base. No to mention the covert surveillance of Americans on American soil.