Vault 7: Big Brother could be watching you


Courtesy of Larry Downing

The CIA’s logo is displayed prominently in the lobby of their headquarters in Langley, Va.

On Tuesday, March 7, WikiLeaks unveiled a new set of leaks pertaining to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) routine practices and extensive capabilities, labeling them collectively as “Vault 7.” These leaks, given by a concerned, anonymous former government contractor, revealed that the CIA could possibly be violating our constitutional rights.

The first information release, “Year Zero,” contains 8,761 documents retrieved from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va that reveal details about the government’s surveillance and hacking practices.

One portion of the release shows that certain branches of the CIA transformed popular devices like iPhones, all Android phones, and Samsung smart TVs to gather information. I am an iPhone user, and a Samsung smart TV owner. At any given moment, the CIA can hack my phone to gain access to my geolocation information, audio communications, texts, camera, and microphone. My TV has a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, where even if I think it’s off, the CIA could be recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to their server. This makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Ever since Edward Snowden, former CIA contractor, leaked classified information about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance capabilities in 2013, I’ve always assumed that I’m being watched, and many of my friends have too. At school, people can constantly be seen with stickers on the webcams of their computers, in fear that someone else can see through them. However, just because there are some ways to protect our privacy, doesn’t make these invasions okay in the slightest. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits unreasonable and unwarranted search and seizure.

“I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and National Security Agency, during an interview with Stephen Colbert. “But there are people out there that you want us to spy on. You want us to have the ability to actually turn on that listening device inside the TV, to learn that person’s intentions. This is a wonderful capability. You give the intelligence community $53 billion a year. You gotta get something for your money.”

While Hayden’s intention may have been to set my mind at ease, all it did was confirm my fears that the government has the ability to monitor me whenever they want. My mindset used to be “if I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear,” but then I realized that the government has access to tons of my data, without warrants. If they continue down this path, our society could resemble that of a creepy teen dystopian novel dictatorship.

In my opinion, these leaks aren’t just revealing, but they could be dangerous for our relationships with other countries. Vault 7 announced that the “U.S. Consulate” in Frankfurt, Germany is actually a covert CIA hacking base. It labeled itself as a consulate so that its employees would be labeled as diplomats, thus facing less screening when traveling in between countries. If we betray other countries, how are they supposed to trust us?

WikiLeaks has said that Year Zero is only one percent of the Vault 7 information they obtained, and they still have further analysis to do on the rest of the files before they can publish any of them. I’m fearful to find out what else the government has been hiding from us.