A spy in your pocket

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

You knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. But cell phones are so darn convenient that we have been crossing our fingers and hoping it wouldn’t happen. You phone will be (already is?) spying on you.


Well, the future is here in France. A bill just passed that will allow the government to secretly turn on your phone’s camera and microphone without your knowledge.

As of now, the power to do this legally will be restricted by the need for a judge’s assent, but if you think that this limitation will be respected and that it never will change, I have news for you: your privacy is gone.

Why people blindly accept benign explanations for plainly awful practices is confusing to me. It is a rare person or government that simple says “I have the power to do this evil thing to you, so grin and bear it.” Instead we get fed lots of BS about how it is for the public good, how it will help get bad guys off the street, and loads of other crap that amounts to nothing.

If you give people power, they will abuse it. They don’t even have to be bad people with bad intentions. Temptation comes for us all, and when you are talking about giving a lot of power to people with a known proclivity to crave it–government officials–they will abuse it quickly.


The list of abuses the FBI has engaged in over the past few years is impressive. Illegal searches, lying to the FISA court, opening an investigation into a presidential candidate/president based upon no evidence, intimidation of activists….

Books will be written about the corruption of the intelligence apparat in the United States in the past decade or two, and the US has more legal protections for citizens than most countries. But the abuses of power go unpunished, and when they do they multiply.

Now France is openly sanctioning turning your expensive cell phone into a snitch, and you can bet that governments around the world have been doing this for a long time without anybody knowing.

In France, the Senate just approved a controversial provision to a justice bill that would allow law enforcement to secretly activate cameras and microphones on a suspect’s devices.

This type of surveillance would be activated without notifying the owner of the device. The same provision would also allow agencies easier access to geolocation data to track suspected criminals.

Even though officials say they would only use the new update to the so-called “Keeper of the Seals” justice bill to capture sound and images of suspects of certain crimes such as delinquency, organized crime, and terrorism, the critics say this would still be disproportionate.

And it’s not only politicians – widespread concern has engulfed civil rights advocates and organizations, too. For instance, the Observatory of Digital Freedoms has denounced such a “security overkill” – it says any subject would risk being turned into a potential snitch.

La Quadrature du Net, another French advocacy group promoting digital rights and freedoms, has also expressed concern about the threat to privacy. According to the organization, investigators could, in theory, be allowed to remotely activate all connected devices, such as televisions or baby monitors.

“If this text were definitively adopted, it would dangerously increase the possibilities of police intrusion by transforming all our IT tools into potential spies,” the group warned in a press release.

Lawyers are also unhappy. The Paris Bar, representing almost 30 000 lawyers, said in a statement that it “deplored” the fact that the initiators of the provision – the government – didn’t consult them.


The digital transformation of society has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we all have access to vastly more information and entertainment than ever before, and many aspects of our economy are wildly more efficient than would be possible without computers.

On the other, we are getting stupider, have shorter attention spans, have zero privacy, and we are now subject to the developing social credit system that can shut off our access to vital things such as banking. Lots of Europeans who are not congenial to the Elite, such as Nigel Farage, are systematically being debanked, and the process hasn’t even gotten started in earnest.

Year ago we learned that Google and others track everything we do on the web–and we hand over our emails to them. Every news site knows what else we are reading, and Amazon knows what you are thinking before you think it. I have Amazon Echo devices all over my house, and Ring cameras looking at every angle outside and in my garage.

How many of you are similarly situated? We know we are being spied on, yet somehow we let it get more invasive every day.

As awful as it is that major corporations know so much about us, government is so much worse. Most corporations care mainly about money–the government is all about power and coercion. Handing over similar and worse power to the government is a serious mistake.

Expect us to make that mistake here in the US very soon. Soon enough the last vestiges of our privacy will be gone, and with them our freedoms.

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