FBi Laptop Camera Snooping and Orwell’s 1984: Side by Side Comparison

Jon Schwartz ( @tinyrevolution ) posted this to Twitter. It is a side by side comparison of a passage from “1984” to the news report from a former senior FBI official that the FBI can turn on the laptop cameras of individuals without activating the red light that shows the camera is operating.


The Washington Post broke the story. If the FBI is doing this without a warrant it is yet another nail in the coffin of the US 4th Amendment, which guarantees people the right not to have government snoop through their personal effects without evidence of wrongdoing and a judge’s permission.

14 Responses

    • I’ve had a little piece of sticky note over the camera ever since I bought my new Mac laptop, several years ago. It won’t do much for sound recording, but at least it’s something.

    • What about the built in mics? And let’s not forget that they can listen to you on your cellphone and activate that camera too.

  1. This must be done at a low level, either the operating system or the hardware itself – which implies Microsoft or chip makers are complicit at the spying of citizens worldwide.

    How long will it be before some nations ban American designed software or hardware for any government use? Stuxnet and widespread espionage show the vulnerability of using foreign controlled computer systems.

    • Actually it depends on the camera and its design. On some, the light can be disabled using a modified driver; certain Logitech cameras you can disable the light through a Windows registry key.

      In all cases they would need to hack into a machine to apply the exploit – but there’s nothing necessarily saying that the exploit has to be through hardware in all cases. (It may just be that they don’t have a way of doing it for cameras that would require hardware hacks – there’s nothing in the text saying they can do it for every make and model.)

    • It’s long been rumored that the reason Windows has so many security holes is that these are trap-doors for the NSA to get into your system. Makes sense to me…

      I wonder if LInux is as vulnerable?

      • When Microsoft extorted a “cross-licensing agreement” out of
        S.u.S.E., Linux became vulnerable. You know that for Microsoft to get out from under that monopoly suit the Federal government had over their heads, they had to give the spooks something, and it wasn’t just going to be the secret backdoors to Windows. They were going to ensure that no competition had any advantages they didn’t keep.

  2. Then the Telecom Network needs to be complicit as well. This is serious. Do you trust the Gov’t will resist the urge to spy on dissenters like our cherished Prof. Cole?

  3. “The FBI…has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigation,…’ (emphasis added).

    Oh, indeed? & just what are those other cases? Beyond despicable. An excellent comparison by Schwartz, too.

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