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Leaked NSA document calls Jobs 'Big Brother,' iPhone buyers 'zombies'

updated 11:50 am EDT, Tue September 10, 2013

2010 slideshow identifies 38 different ways of tracking iPhone users

A National Security Agency presentation from 2010, leaked to Germany's Der Spiegel by Edward Snowden, calls former Apple CEO Steve Jobs "Big Brother" and iPhone customers his "zombies." The presentation is titled Exploring Current Trends, Targets and Techniques, and as a whole discusses NSA efforts to hack into iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices. Slides on iPhone location services make reference to Apple's own famous "1984" Macintosh ad, and by extension George Orwell's novel warning about government surveillance and the manipulation of history.

The slideshow remarks that in the case of the iPhone 3G and 4, programming scripts allow NSA surveillance of 38 different elements, including Maps, Photos, and voicemail, and third-party apps like Facebook, Google Earth, and Yahoo Messenger. Owing to the file's age, it's unknown to what extent the NSA can spy on more recent smartphones, which in some cases have more elaborate security architecture.

Der Spiegel notes that for the NSA smartphones are a "goldmine," containing just about everything the agency might want to know about someone. This includes contacts, photos, location data, and personal interests, which can be revealed through things like search terms. In some cases, a phone may have critical personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Paul Huang

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 09-18-99

    One 'Big Brother' calling another 'Big Brother'.

  1. jpellino

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-29-99

    These are Microsoft-worthy levels of classlessnessish.

  1. airmanchairman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-08-11

    Oh the insidious hypocritical irony of it all... big brother indeed!

    All sum and substance of rant, cant and hypocritical jiggery-pokery.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    This is a good example of how far up their own backsides the NSA are, that they don't see THEMSELVES as Big Brother. The fact that they can't crack iMessages and FaceTime (but have never said a WORD of complaint about Android and BB phones) makes me glad that, if I have to use a smartphone at all, it's an iPhone ...

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