Author: InvisibleUser Team
Many of us were born in and have lived their whole life in a democracy. We take it for granted that we have basic human rights, like the right to vote and that we can express ourselves freely. Unfortunately, these are not self-evident and we have to continue to fight for democracy to not lose our rights. Due to a lack of experience with undemocratic or even authoritarian state forms, many of us do not recognise the warning signs. Government surveillance is very real.
In the digital age, governments around the world are slowly eroding the privacy rights of the people. Authorities are abusing modern technologies like internet chat, calls over the internet, instant messaging, web tracking, social networks and data retention to collect information about the population and keep it under control. We are watching these developments with concern.
On 2nd Juli 2019, the media widely reported that Western tourists that visited the Chinese Xinjiang province were under government surveillance. When they entered the province, they were searched by customs and their smartphones were confiscated. They got them back, but in the meantime, the Chinese authorities had installed a spy app.
It was done for the purpose of searching the phone for keywords that terrorists use, since there are a large number of Islamistic terrorists in Xinjiang. The media made a big story out of it and criticised China for spying on citizens. Everyone was shocked 😮 ! OMG China, how dare you 😡 ?!? 😈 Articles from The Guardian and Techspot
We found this quite funny, because Google, Microsoft and even Western governments themselves do much worse things through their domestic intelligence agencies. Google does almost the same thing as China, but everyone loves Google and its free Android photo storage, their personal assistant (personal spy) and Gmail. The app that the Chinese customs installed only looked for a few keywords and photos.
That is nothing compared to the highly advanced Trojans that German police use, for example. Their Trojans have far more capabilities to intercept your data and communication.
The main one is called “Bundestrojaner” or “Federal Trojan horse”, in English. It is an absolutely disgusting piece of software and the former German Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Heiko Maas massively increased the number of ways it can be used. Maas expanded the number of offences for which a federal online search using malware can be performed to 27. Many of them are not even serious crimes. He “has also been accused of using tricks for the proceeding of passing these amendments“, as well as “violating privacy and undermining cyber–security.” (quoted from Wikipedia).
The Swiss federal government received their own version of the Bundestrojaner Federal Trojan horse for things like Skype and VoIP call interception. Their editions are called “MiniPanzer” and “MegaPanzer”, which stands for MiniTank and MegaTank, in English. They were later discovered “in the wild”, the source code repositories were published. Articles on the Trojans from Symantec, WIRED (publication of the source code) and the Trojan can be downloaded at SourceForge (at your own risk!!!).
European and North American countries might call themselves democracies, but their governments are no better than that of the surveillance state China, in this regard. In China, all your social and other actions are being watched and an algorithm assigns a social score to every citizen. It is not that bad yet in Europe and North America, but we will see what the future holds.
There is a global development in governments and law enforcement who more and more try to restrict our secure communication. Many states are investigating ways to limit the possibilities that we have. This can happen on the technological side through government hackers, but also through outlawing encryption and private communication.
“When secure communication using encryption or anonymisation techniques becomes forbidden or is regarded as suspicious by authorities, we do not live in a democracy anymore.” — InvisibleUser