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Is Someone Listening?
Approximately 192 million Americans, or two-thirds of the country's population, use iPhones and Androids—which WikiLeaks says the CIA can access.
comScore; WikiLeaks
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So this happened.
"There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America," FBI Director James Comey said this week in a very comforting statement given at a conference on cybersecurity.

His remark, made in response to the rise of encryption, comes on the heels of WikiLeaks releasing the largest leak of CIA documents in history: thousands of pages detailing the intelligence agency's vast capabilities to hack into smartphones, computers, and smart TVs. Now, the CIA is in defense mode, tapping the FBI to investigate who leaked the docs; and WikiLeaks is playing offense, saying they'll join forces with tech firms to take down CIA hacking tactics.
How we got here.
You might be thinking this sounds familiar—we're looking at you, Edward Snowden. But one of the biggest differences between this leak and Snowden's 2013 NSA leak is that back then, the NSA was collecting data on Americans, which is illegal. There's no evidence the CIA is doing that here. However, the U.S. government has long tried to push surveillance boundaries with citizens. Here's a quick timeline:
  • October 2001. After 9/11, then-President George W. Bush signs the PATRIOT Act, which expanded government authority to monitor American citizens' phone, email, financial, and internet activities. Cue a heated debate over whether fighting terrorism had to come at the price of personal privacy.
  • November 2008. During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama pledges to support intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but emphasizes "no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens." He wins the presidency, but the wiretapping continues.
  • June 2013. Snowden's bombshell. The Guardian and The Washington Post publish documents leaked by the former NSA contractor, whose story is captured in the 2014 documentary Citizenfour (the film was produced in part by Participant Media). These top-secret files reveal the existence of the PRISM surveillance program, which collected voice, email, text, and video chats of Americans and foreigners using data from major tech companies including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. Other papers showed that the NSA also collected phone records from at least 120 million Verizon subscribers.
  • September 2015. The PATRIOT act comes up for renewal, but thanks to Snowden's revelations, it gets renewed scrutiny. A bipartisan group of senators led by Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) called for reforms. A compromise bill is later passed—dubbed the USA Freedom Act of 2015—that reauthorizes most of the original law but bans the blanket collection of Americans' telephone records and internet data.
Why you should care...
Even if there's no definitive evidence that Big Brother is watching you, the WikiLeaks documents cast a spotlight on the surveillance capabilities of one of the world's most powerful intelligence agencies. No need for James Bond-like spy maneuvers—now, many of our everyday products can be used for surveillance, often without us knowing.

Chances are, you use or own at least one of the specified products the CIA can hack into: Microsoft Windows, Apple iPhones, Google Androids, and Samsung Smart TVs, which can be placed into a "fake off" mode while secretly bugging the room and recording conversations. Worldwide, there are 3.9 billion smartphone users and 400 million devices running Microsoft Windows. While there isn't specific data on how many Smart TVs Samsung has sold to date, CNET reports the brand shipped 41 percent of all smart TVs—internet-connected televisions bringing you binge marathons via apps like Netflix, HBO Go, etc.—in the U.S. in 2015.

But—deep breaths now—while the government can use this wealth of hacking knowledge overseas, it can't legally spy on any U.S. civilians without a warrant and probable cause. That said, privacy advocates, some lawmakers, and even Google have voiced concerns that new federal rules put in place last year could pave the way for mass computer hackings by federal law enforcement.
...and what you can do.
Several media outlets are rounding up privacy advice. Here's how you can protect your phones, computers, TVs, and more via The New York Times, Wired, and Forbes.
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