NSA: Apple controls the public

Leaked documents reveal surveillance of smartphones and spy agency's pot-kettle-black attitude to the tech giant

By Natasha Lennard

Published September 10, 2013 6:25PM (EDT)

In a series of NSA classified slides leaked to Der Spiegel, the NSA shows some perturbing biopolitical understanding of how Apple technology can serve as a tool of control.

Referring to Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad, which suggested some cybernetic fantasies of freedom through new network technologies, one NSA slide reads, "Who knew in 1984 ... that this would be big brother ... and the zombies would be paying customers?" while another called Steve Jobs "Big Brother."

Aside from the pot-calling-the-kettle black aspect of a spy agency that hoards data on almost every electronic communication within and going out of the U.S., the internal government admission that a tech company can play a major role in techniques of governmentality is perturbingly accurate. It is, after all, the content of millions of Apple product users that is swept into the NSA's vast surveillance dragnets daily.

As Der Spiegel reported, the spy agency kept pace with the spread and patterns of smartphone usage to access user data:

The NSA tackled the issue at the same speed with which the devices changed user behavior. According to the documents, it set up task forces for the leading smartphone manufacturers and operating systems. Specialized teams began intensively studying Apple's iPhone and its iOS operating system, as well as Google's Android mobile operating system. Another team worked on ways to attack BlackBerry, which had been seen as an impregnable fortress until then.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Apple Der Spiegel Edward Snowden Nsa Silicon Valley Smartphones Spying Surveillance