Watch Edward Snowden detail how phones are used to spy on you
Smartphones are an important way for governments, tech companies and bad actors to snoop on you, as you leave a digital paper trail. But how does this happen?
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden detailed just how smartphones can be used to spy on users in an appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (see the featured video above).
Snowden noted that the biggest change in how the government conducts surveillance is that it’s moved to a “mobile-first” approach owing to the prevalence of smartphones. He explained once again how bulk collection of data for surveillance works.
The whistleblower said that carriers are able to track your device and therefore figure out your identity via cellular towers. Snowden adds that the movements of your phone are the movements of you as a person and are unique, as you go to your home and workplace every day.
“What this means is that whenever you’re carrying a phone, whenever the phone is turned on, there’s a record of your presence at that place that is made and being created by companies. It does not need to be kept forever, and in fact there’s no good argument for it to be kept forever. But these companies see that as valuable information,” Snowden explains.
The former NSA contractor says all of this data is stored as part of bulk collection or mass surveillance, regardless of whether you did anything wrong. “And that was just talking about how you connect to the phone network. That’s not talking about all those apps on your phone that are contacting the network even more frequently.”
Snowden says that shutting your phone off does work in some ways, but questioned how you would know that your modern, sealed smartphone is actually turned off.
“When I was in Geneva for example, working for the CIA, we would all carry like drug dealer phones (sic). The old dumb phones, they’re not smartphones, and the reason why was just because they had the removable backs where you could take the battery out.”