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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/28/14

Who Needs the Gestapo When You Have "Angry Birds"?

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Somewhere in the lowest reaches of hell, Adolf Hitler and his coterie of lesser dictators must be tormented by the knowledge they did not live long enough to get their hands on "Angry Birds." How much diabolical power they would have had, not playing the game, but rather mining the data freely volunteered by its billion of unsuspecting customers.

"When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player's location, age, sex and other personal information ..." The New York Times reported, based on the latest of Edward Snowden's leaks.

No need then for the Gestapo to go crashing through apartment doors to brutally interrogate citizens as to the most guarded moments of their personal lives when a vast amount of private information from gaming, mapping and social networking sites is pirated by the government. No totalitarian leader could ever imagine such surveillance power over his populace.

Of course, such nightmarish fantasies are a long way from the rationalizations of our own democratically oriented U.S. and British spy agencies that assure us they only ever target the bad guys. But the harrowing specificity about our once presumed private lives, as revealed this week in yet another devastating trove of documents from Snowden and reported in the Times and The Guardian, might one day open the floodgates to a totally regimented society.

What is alarming is the depth of detail, as well as the breadth of the information, gleaned from the ubiquitous mobile phone apps, including political affiliation and gender preferences, geographical location, an extensive network of one's friends and even distant associates. 

This information, easily obtained and mined by our government spies in cooperation with their counterparts in England, has gone far beyond the previously revealed collection of general metadata to monitor the most intimate details of our lives, as revealed in so-called leaky mobile apps including Google Maps, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter. As a result, everything in your address book, buddy lists and geographic data embedded in photos and phone logs is readily available to the spy agencies, including, as a British one boasted in 2012, details of one's political alignment and sexual orientation.

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Robert Scheer is editor in chief of the progressive Internet site Truthdig. He has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy (more...)
 

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