Federal agencies won't need to hack into your encrypted devices to spy on you. All they need to do is to hack into your oven toaster and other Internet-connected appliances at home.
A Harvard report released Monday destroyed claims of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) that law enforcement is "going dark" as a result of encryption. Rather, it says that the boost in Internet-connected devices is going to provide a myriad of new surveillance opportunities.
Participated in by current and ex-intelligence officials, the study pushed out by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society says that a multitude of new technologies, which range from bedsheets, cameras, cars, door locks, toothbrushes, watches and other wearable devices will offer the government alternative options to trace kidnappers and terrorists.
The study, titled [pdf] "Don't Panic: Making Progress on the 'Going Dark' Debate," has been attempting to counter the argument of the FBI and intelligence agencies for more than two years already. In the past, the agencies advised Congress that the move by Apple to instantly encrypt data on iPhones, in addition to similar actions by Microsoft and Google, limits abilities to keep track of suspects.
"[T]he 'going dark' metaphor does not fully describe the future of the government's capacity to access the communications of suspected terrorists and criminals," the study concludes.
However, it also admits that the increased availability of encryption technologies undoubtedly restricts government surveillance under specific instances and that "the government is losing some surveillance opportunities."
Nevertheless, it underscores that "the combination of technological developments and market forces is likely to fill some of the gaps" plus to make certain that the government will obtain new options in collecting important information from surveillance.
The report comes in the middle of a debate between tech firms and policy makers, saying that terrorist groups reap the benefits of encryption which permits them to safely distribute documents and communications only to their expected recipients.
Apple's Tim Cook told White House Officials that the action of the government to obtain the keys to encrypted communications could be an advantage for hackers - therefore putting personal communications, transactions plus financial data in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Joseph Nye, a former head of the National Intelligence Council and a Harvard government professor is convinced that the study shows that "the world today is like living in a big field that is more illuminated than ever before."
He went on to say that it is easy to forget that there is much more information accessible to governments now than in the past.
We have yet to hear a response from the agencies with regard to this study.