Photo: IntelFreePress on Flickr
Dozens of federal agencies have bought spyware to monitor the communications of government employees, Lisa Rein of the Washington Post reports. The software, sold by SpectorSoft, can be programmed to intercept tweets and Facebook posts, take screen shots of computers, track keystrokes, retrieve files from hard drives, and search for keywords.
The report is highly concerning to privacy advocates and whistleblowers.
Last month Congressional investigators revealed the highest levels of the Food and Drug Administration authorised wide-ranging surveillance of a group of the agency’s scientists who were communicating with lawmakers and others about potentially dangerous medical devices.
SpectorSoft says its best-selling product, Spector 360, can monitor “Every activity, in complete detail” and that it has sold the product to numerous federal agencies.
In June the Transportation Security Administration asked for an “insider-threat software package.” The TSA specified that employees “must not have the ability to detect this technology” and “must not have the ability to kill the process or service,” according to Rein.
Industry experts told the Post the WikiLeaks scandal and concerns over unauthorised disclosures spurred the government to secretly track its employees’ work and personal computers in real time.
Each agency sets its own policies on what can be monitored, and agencies are not required to inform employees when they monitor communications.
“How do you distinguish between a constitutionally protected contact with the press and an illegal leak?” Kohn asked. “You can’t. What you have right now is the ability to find every single Deep Throat in the government.”
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