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What Does The NSA Think About You?

If you are wondering what NSA insiders think of the millions of us who are being watched by the agency, we now have a clue.

As part of a slide deck that shows how the NSA can use location information collected by mobile phone users, someone at the NSA apparently thought it would be amusing to play with images from Apple's "Big Brother" ad from 1984 and make allusions to Orwell's body of work.

This is according the German magazine Der Spiegel, which has been working with Edward Snowden and has access to some of his cache of pilfered documents.

It's no surprise that the NSA would be interested in exploiting all the information collected by smartphones. With location tracking, accelerometers and microphones built right in, once compromised they are the ideal high-tech spying device. And the great part from a spy's perspective is that hundreds of millions of people around the world have voluntarily started carrying them everywhere they go.

The surprising part about the slide deck is what it reveals about how some in the NSA think about us. Disappointing, however, is that the slide deck's author didn't get his Orwellian references right. If he'd read Animal Farm he'd know we are not zombies, we are sheep.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.
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