Declan Dunn, TechViews.org …..
Many airlines are now allowing smart-phones to have Internet access while in flight. But are you aware that American and British Intelligence are now recording, mapping, and tracking all in-flight communications?
This is, or course, a spin-off of the need to track potential terrorists if they use commercial airlines to enter this country. But in reality, they are watching everyone who flies.
Finding a terrorist among all those passengers is like finding a needle in a haystack, considering the millions of people who fly every day. But the excuse is that if that needle is found before we get pricked, the public surveillance effort was worth it.
So, If you like your privacy, don’t fly the friendly skies with your phone connected to in-flight networks.
According to a new investigation by the French publication, Le Monde, based on secret documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, American and British intelligence have been surveilling phone use aboard civil aircraft since at least 2005.
Simply turning on your phone when the plane is flying above 10,000 feet will reveal your location to the NSA. The spy agencies are able to extract a range of information in near real-time under a program aptly named “Thieving Magpie.”
- Smart-phone numbers
- Log-in PINs
- Email addresses
- Skype identifying data
- Facebook identifying data
The agencies then correlate this data with other facts, like the plane’s passenger list, the flight number, and other details in order to pinpoint a particular user.
The spies can also see what you’re doing on your phone. For instance, the British intelligence agency GCHQ said it found users were using their phones to check email, use Facebook and Twitter, fire up travel apps like Google Maps and currency convertors, and make calls.
Spying on people on planes is handy if you want to arrest them or further surveil them when they land. The GCHQ says the program can confirm that subjects are aboard particular flights in “near real-time,” allowing surveillance or arrest teams to be prepared when the plane lands.
While identifying and tracking the bad guys seems to be alright with most people, what about the tracking of all the regular, non-terrorist citizens onboard those flights?
Both the NSA and the GCHQ have said they retain that information indefinitely in huge data warehouses in case a person of interest surfaces later. That stored data on airline passengers is then opened up for analysis.
It brings up the question of Privacy vs Security. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
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