Amazon.com is building the CIA’s new $600 million data center, reports the Financial Times. (1) At the same time Amazon.com is building this massive cloud computing infrastructure for the CIA, the company is also shipping millions of Fire TV set-top devices to customers who are placing them in their private homes. I have one myself, and it’s a terrific piece of hardware for delivering Prime video content. In fact, in terms of its usability and specs, it’s far superior to Roku or Netflix-capable devices. Fire TV is, hands down, the best set-top video delivery device on the market today.
But there’s something about it that always struck me as odd: it has no power button. There’s no power button on the remote, and there’s no power button on the box. It turns out there’s no way to power the device off except for unplugging it.
This is highly unusual and apparently done by design. “It is not necessary to turn off Amazon Fire TV when you are finished using it,” says the Amazon.com website. (2) “Your Amazon Fire TV is designed to go into sleep mode after 30 minutes, while continuing to automatically receive important software updates.”
Note carefully that this does not say your Fire TV device WILL go into sleep mode after 30 minutes; only that it is “designed” to go into sleep mode after 30 minutes. As lawyers well know, this is a huge difference.
Fire TV devices linked to your identity
So far, you might not be convinced this is anything to write home about, but there’s much more to this story. What we know so far is that Amazon.com is building the CIA’s new cloud computing data center, and we also know the company’s Fire TV devices have no way to be turned off and are being placed in the living rooms of private homes.
What starts to make this really interesting is when you realize these devices are linked to your identity before they’re shipped to you.
Ever notice that when you power on your Fire TV device, it already knows who you are? Your entire library of video purchases on Amazon.com is already available, and those purchases are of course linked to your credit card, which is linked to your social security number, which is linked to your identity.
In other words, Amazon.com knows the identity of the owner of every Fire TV box currently sitting in living rooms across America. This mean it can connect everything that happens around that box (including audio monitoring, as you’ll see below) to your personal identity.
Fire TV devices listen to your voice and upload audio to Amazon servers
Here’s the next piece of this puzzle that may give you pause: There is a built-in microphone on the Fire TV remote.
When you click the search button, your voice is recorded and uploaded to Amazon.com servers where it is analyzed by Amazon cloud computing applications — the same kind of thing Amazon is building for the CIA — in order to return search matches to your local TV screen.
Now, I fully realize that most Americans are too gullible and naive to believe their audio recordings get uploaded to Amazon.com servers, so I’m going to quote CNET.com here which published an article earlier this year entitled: “How to delete your Fire TV voice recordings – Amazon stores your recordings on its servers to improve accuracy of voice searches. Here’s how you can delete that data.” (3)
As this article openly states, “To improve the service and the voice results, however, Amazon records and stores the voice samples associated with your account to its servers.”
It goes on to warn readers that “there is no way to opt-out of Amazon’s voice storage.”
And there you have it: the Fire TV device was engineered from the start to record your voice, upload it to Amazon’s servers — now being expanded to the CIA — and link those voice recordings to your identity.
Nothing written in this article so far should be debatable in the least: it’s all fact, openly admitted by the company itself. Then again, the average Netizen is so clueless about reality that you’ll probably see people denying the fact that Fire TV set-top boxes have microphones and the ability to upload voice recordings to Amazon.com. Some will call that a “conspiracy theory” even though it’s part of the published specification of the device.
But there’s even more to this story that does legitimately qualify as a debatable topic. Let’s explore…
The perfect spy devices for monitoring private conversations in your home
How hard would it be for Fire TV devices to monitor and upload your conversations 24/7?
Think about it: Fire TV devices already have the hardware, software and bandwidth to record audio and upload it to Amazon.com. That’s part of the spec and functionality of the system. The devices have no power off button to discourage people from turning them off. The devices are already linked to your personal identity via your credit card on file with Amazon, and this is the same company that’s now building a massive storage and data center for the CIA, which for some reason now needs massive data storage capacity and the ability to process that data using buildings full of servers.
An article published by MHP Books (4) reveals that Amazon may already be working with the NSA to provide surveillance data on U.S. citizens:
…One mainstream source — Businessweek — rather perversely observes that the leaked documents show Dropbox was about to be added to the PRISM program, then goes on to say that “This is a weird one because Dropbox stores its customers’ files on Amazon.com’s cloud computing service, yet Amazon appears nowhere in the Prism documents.” It fails to note that not all the companies suspected of supplying the NSA with info were named in the documents — that those documents were in fact redacted — although it does show a modicum of due diligence in asking Amazon if it was participating in the NSA program, and a spokeswoman responds with an apparent two word answer: “Not cooperating.”
But are they to be believed? Other non-mainstreamers report bluntly that Amazon was part of PRISM. To still other observers, such as this reader in the Guardian, it seems obvious: “Does this explain the apparent immunity to tax of Apple, Amazon and co?” she asks.
Another article entitled, “Snowden slams Amazon for leaking customer data to the NSA” reveals how former NSA contractor Edward Snowden harshly criticized Amazon.com for allowing intelligence agencies to read everything you browse on Amazon.com, including book titles, movies and more. This is happening due to Amazon.com’s failure to implement proper encryption protocols, Snowden explains. (5)
Corporations spying on their own customers is a conspiracy FACT
You can fully expect that many people who are still living in the pre-Snowden era will immediately decry this article as a “conspiracy theory.” But doing so only paints a dunce label on their foreheads, because thanks to Snowden, we already know as a matter of record that nearly all the large data companies routinely spy on their own customers and hand over that data to the NSA. Welcome to 1984, three decades later.
Perhaps in 2004, the idea that all your phone calls, emails, credit card transactions, banking activities, web surfing habits and social media posts were monitored by the NSA could be considered kooky and weird. But today, ten years later, all this (and more) is known to be historical fact.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the words of former high-level NSA architect William Binney who now warns that “the ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control,” according to a headline in The Guardian. (6)
That Guardian article goes on to report:
Binney recently told the German NSA inquiry committee that his former employer had a “totalitarian mentality” that was the “greatest threat” to US society since that country’s US Civil War in the 19th century.
The era of mass surveillance has gone from the fringes of public debate to the mainstream, where it belongs… One of Europe’s leading web creators, Lena Thiele, presented her stunning series Netwars in London on the threat of cyber warfare. She showed how easy it is for governments and corporations to capture our personal information without us even realising.
That may be exactly what Amazon is doing right now with Fire TV set-top boxes: capturing our personal information without us realizing.
Huge intelligence value of recording your private conversations
Imagine the intelligence value of having 24/7 audio streams of private household conversations that are linked to all the other information Amazon already has on us: book purchasing habits, video viewing habits, shopping behaviors and more. While many people concerned about digital privacy often point to Google’s tracking of your search queries, in truth Amazon.com has a far more intimate knowledge of your psyche than Google because Amazon knows what you’re buying, watching, reading and consuming.
I’m sure my own Amazon.com purchase history would be a goldmine of data revealing a long history of purchases of laboratory equipment, firearms accessories, rare books and products related to special interest areas such as aviation history and aquaponics. Imagine the value of this information if combined with live audio of someone holding private conversations in their own living room.
With Fire TV, Amazon may have already displaced Google as the internet company that knows more about your psyche than anyone else. And Amazon is the company that’s now building the CIA’s new cloud computing center.
Gives you something to ponder, doesn’t it?
All Fire TV devices are one update away from being activated as spy devices
I fully realize there may be many skeptics who can’t possibly fathom the idea of Amazon.com spying on them in their own living rooms. Then again, there are still people who believe that concrete-and-steel buildings collapse like a perfect demolition job following a few small office fires. Go figure.
But consider this: Even if Fire TV boxes aren’t currently being used to spy on you, they could be activated as spy devices with a simple software update.
And guess what? Those software updates are automatic and selective. In other words, Amazon.com could turn on spying functions for certain selected Fire TV boxes belonging to certain people the NSA or CIA wanted to monitor.
The updates happen quietly, in the background, without your knowledge. One day you wake up and your Fire TV box is suddenly monitoring everything you say, without your knowledge, right in your own living room.
Anyone who thinks this isn’t possible is living in a world of delusion. Corporations routinely spy on their own customers and turn over that data to the NSA or CIA. The more realistic question is: why wouldn’t Amazon already be doing this?
Simple solution: UNPLUG!
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to all this: UNPLUG it!
In fact, the mantra “Unplug” might be the perfect word for the greatest wisdom of our time. If you don’t want to be spied on, unplug from the grid: don’t shop at Amazon.com, don’t run search queries on Google, don’t use email, don’t use credit cards and don’t install spy devices in your own living room.
By simply unplugging these devices, you deny them the stream of electrons they need to spy on you. That’s their Achilles Heel: they all need electricity, and YOU control the electricity.
Personally, I love using Fire TV, but I now unplug it when I’m not watching something. This not only protects my privacy from Amazon snoops, it also seems to make the device function a lot better by rebooting it each time.
If you have a Fire TV device, unplug it when you’re not using it. You’ll save a small amount of electricity, but more importantly you might also save your privacy from the prying eyes at Amazon, the NSA and the CIA, all of which are aggressively expanding their monitoring and surveillance of Americans.
Sources for this story include: