Julian Assange has spoken of a war against the international mass surveillance industry as Wikileaks released documents with details of companies selling personal data directly tracked from our smartphones.
According to Mr Assange, 160 companies from 25 different countries use our mobile phones as tracking devices to intercept calls, manipulate messages, monitor locations and even take pictures without us realising. “Who here has an iPhone or Blackberry, or uses Gmail? Well, you’re all screwed,” said the founder of Wikileaks at a press conference at City University London today.
In order to expose an industry “totally outside public scrutiny”, Wikileaks has released 287 new documents about organisations it says are able to spy on entire populations. Mr Assange said: “This sounds like something out of Hollywood or science fiction.” He also said that Wikileaks’ findings are “quite remarkable” and reveal how the sophisticated technology used by some governments or companies to monitor people’s mobile phones and computers works.
The whistle-blowing site claims to have uncovered for example that the French security company Amesys sold equipment to Gaddafi in 2006, allowing his regime to spy not only on Lybia’s population but also on Lybians living in the UK and the US. “The problem is that these companies have the right to sell the software to the bad guys. The law needs to change,” said French journalist Jean Marc Manach from OWNI, a Paris-based online magazine.
Jacob Appelbaum, an independent computer security expert that has been targeted by the US for cooperating with Wikileaks, believes these invasive systems are being used just as weapons are used. “We can go after these companies by simply telling the truth,” he said.