As you read this, your government could be thumbing through your contacts, reviewing your text messages and uploading the photos you have stored on your phone without your knowledge. This is the new reality in a post-9/11 age. Most citizens around the globe were first made aware of this troubling phenomenon through the controversial actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In their new documentary titled the State of Surveillance, VICE travels to Russia, where Snowden currently lives safe from persecution by the United States, to probe the depths of his particular area of expertise.
As discussed in the early section of the film, the most recent example of the U.S. government’s dominance over privately owned digital devices was made clear in the aftermath of the San Bernadino terrorist shootings. After haggling with Apple over a means of gaining access to the perpetrator’s phone, the government managed to hack it on their own. But that’s a capability they’ve had all along, claims Snowden.
At a table sitting across from VICE host Shane Smith, Snowden performs a dissection of a common cellular phone – the kind used by many billions of people all over the world. He illustrates how the innards of every phone can act as pathways through which institutions can track your every move.
The intrusion doesn’t stop with your cell phone or laptop device. Drone surveillance – the spying technology which allows organizations like the CIA to keep watch on suspected terrorist activities in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan – are now being employed by the U.S. government on their own home soil. In many cases, these drones are not being used to detect potential terrorist threats, but rather citizen-led protests such as the one which recently occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. According to Snowden and other figures interviewed in the film, missions like these are driven by the government’s desire to suppress and deter the will and the rights of their people.
Apathy and ignorance will only breed a further deterioration of our rights to privacy. The State of Surveillance understands that insidious security breaches like these will continue to occur until the public becomes more aware and vocal in their disapproval.