Recent news of government monitoring of phone calls and emails, both within the U.S. and abroad, has caused some to reexamine their technological companions. Many are beginning to ask, when highly confidential and sensitive information is being discussed, should our seemingly indispensable technology be checked at the door?
This month, the British government began banning the presence of iPads at certain Cabinet meetings over concerns that the devices could contain viruses that would allow third parties to take control of the microphone and transmit recorded audio. Ministers in sensitive U.K. government departments were also issued soundproof lead-lined boxes, in which they must place their mobile phones during sensitive in-person conversations.
The U.S. government is taking similar precautions. One member of President Obama’s Cabinet has been told that he could not take his iPad on an overseas trip because it was not considered a secure device. Moreover, when the President travels abroad, he erects a “security tent” in his hotel room, which is designed to shield the occupants from secret video cameras and listening devices.
The U.S., Britain, Canada, and New Zealand governments have also banned computers manufactured by Lenovo, a Beijing-based company partially owned by the Chinese government, from accessing their classified government networks.
In the private sector, many companies have begun instituting similar polices, such as forbidding employees from taking their cellphones on business trips to certain foreign countries, especially China.
Suddenly, the cone of silence, which you may remember from the 1960s television spy spoof “Get Smart,” might not seem so absurd.