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Veteran Member - Level 11
The hypothetical scenario I'm about to propose is purely
speculation and isn't based on any fact or insider knowledge - I don't have a
secret unnamed source and certainly haven't found any classified documents suggesting
it has or will happen. It is based on a couple of events I've been following
over the past few days and decided to relate it to the world of video games.
The first event (and obviously the most newsworthy) is the report
claiming the NSA has been collecting phone records.
"The National Security
Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US
customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top
secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of
which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing,
daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its
systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries." Full Story at the Guardian can be found here.
The other event hit a little closer to home and involves the
theft of some personal electronic equipment. A friend of the family had a
laptop and iPad (among other things) stolen. Whenever something like that
happens, we often evaluate our own preparedness - so I made sure to set up the
"Find iPhone" feature on my iPhone and evaluated some freeware apps to help
recover your computer if it is ever stolen. It sort of operates like LoJack
does in vehicles equipped with it.
If you've never checked out the iOS app (apparently it works
with the iPhone and iPad), you can play a sound (if you're trying to find a
lost or misplaced phone); you can send the phone a message; you can lock it and
even erase it...all remotely from another phone, iPad or Mac computer.
I found one particularly nifty application you install on
your computer and if it's ever stolen, you log on the associated website and mark
it as missing. Should the perpetrator (or new user who doesn't know it's
stolen) ever connect to the Internet with your computer, it will basically
report its location and go as far as taking a picture using the webcam
(assuming it's a laptop with built in webcam). That's kind of scary when you
think about it, but also kind of cool (depending on which end of the camera you're
Anyway, combining the general fundamentals of each of these
stories, should we be preparing for the next newsworthy scandal to be...
NSA Wiretapping Your
Video Game Console.
In my professional opinion, it's not only possible but
probable this COULD happen...both in
technical capability and by executive decision.
Some of you might think I'm off my rocker...or maybe this is
just another of my conspiracy theory blogs. Others might point out the NSA is
accused of only collecting the actual records (time, numbers called, people
called) - not collecting the actual conversations. Maybe...maybe not. I don't
think any of us really knows the extent of what's been captured.
Consider though, the age of analog phones is almost a thing
of the past and most of our voice and data (and video for that matter) is
digital...and passed over the Internet. It isn't a stretch to imagine the same
agencies that are able to collect cellular and landline phone calls are able to
collect any other type of digital data stream...which means, they could be
listening in and/or watching whatever we're doing on our...
Video game consoles?
With all three consoles - the Wii U, the Xbox One and
presumably the Playstation 4 all having a camera built in, and all having a
voice capability used to chat with your fellow gamers from around the world...imagine
if the NSA, some other government agency or even a rogue hacker group like
Anonymous having the ability to eavesdrop inside your home. Even worse, imagine
if the government said it was legal because it was being performed in order to
Surely you've already heard this capability exist with cellphones
and smartphones - that even when they are powered off they still emit signals...and
the government can still hear and see through the phone. Just as concerning, what
if this can be (or is) carried out on other devices like our computers and game
When people ask me what I think about persistent online
connections and the direction most of the consoles are going with requiring
them, I can't help but wonder about the long term implications this could have
on our individual privacy. I honestly don't think Sony or Microsoft or even
Nintendo are implementing this requirement to expose us to this vulnerability.
I actually applaud them for pushing the envelope with innovative new technology
for us to play games with. But that doesn't mean this feature we view as a
capability can't be exploited by those, especially our own government agencies
that have the technology and resources to do so.
If you don't think an "always on" Internet connection is that
big of a deal and can't understand why those who complain about it are doing
so, next time you look into your Wii U's gamepad camera, your Xbox's Kinect
camera or your Playstation Move's camera, consider who might be on the other
end watching...whether the system is on or off.
Big brother could be watching you...
...play Call of Duty.