State of Surveillance

State of Surveillance

2016, Technology  -   85 Comments
Ratings: 8.66/10 from 1275 users.

As you read this, your government could be thumbing through your contacts, reviewing your text messages and uploading the photos you have stored on your phone without your knowledge. This is the new reality in a post-9/11 age. Most citizens around the globe were first made aware of this troubling phenomenon through the controversial actions of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In their new documentary titled State of Surveillance, VICE travels to Russia, where Snowden currently lives safe from persecution by the United States, to probe the depths of his particular area of expertise.

As discussed in the early section of the film, the most recent example of the U.S. government's dominance over privately owned digital devices was made clear in the aftermath of the San Bernadino terrorist shootings. After haggling with Apple over a means of gaining access to the perpetrator's phone, the government managed to hack it on their own. But that's a capability they've had all along, claims Snowden.

At a table sitting across from VICE host Shane Smith, Snowden performs a dissection of a common cellular phone - the kind used by many billions of people all over the world. He illustrates how the innards of every phone can act as pathways through which institutions can track your every move.

The intrusion doesn't stop with your cell phone or laptop device. Drone surveillance - the spying technology which allows organizations like the CIA to keep watch on suspected terrorist activities in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan - are now being employed by the U.S. government on their own home soil. In many cases, these drones are not being used to detect potential terrorist threats, but rather citizen-led protests such as the one which recently occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. According to Snowden and other figures interviewed in the film, missions like these are driven by the government's desire to suppress and deter the will and the rights of their people.

Apathy and ignorance will only breed a further deterioration of our rights to privacy. State of Surveillance understands that insidious security breaches like these will continue to occur until the public becomes more aware and vocal in their disapproval.

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2 years ago

Pithy, succinct, to the point, nutshelled very well, yet TOTALLY worth yer 27 minutes. ES is a true patriot. What if he were POTUS? Fun for the whole freaking family

Jon Jonzz
3 years ago

The Brave New World is here. Facebook, Twitter, Google,and Instagram work in concert with Govt. "Medical Marijuana", pills, etc are the Soma for the people. NSA, CIA, DOJ, FBI are the secret police. Privacy died quite a while ago.

3 years ago

The good thing is that most police departments in the United States are not using IMSI catchers due to recent SCOTUS rulings that this information needs to be retrieved AFTER a legitamite articulable warrant is secured. Now Norway? Oslo? Yea, there's not a whole crapload of privacy and freedom in a place like that....or ANY place in Europe for that matter LOL. But I have several inside sources and I can tell you no police department in the two state capitals I live within an hour of have A SINGLE IMSI. The FBI may have one, sure, but no police department does. You've got to get PRETTY HIGH on the FBI "radar" to rate being followed by an IMSI device in the United States. I'd be worried too if I was that "interesting" LOL.

4 years ago

I have a question...With all the surveillance, shouldn't the government find and stop shooters before they kill people?

Mike Desmond
4 years ago

I'm so tired of this being the top video for the past 2+ years,

4 years ago

Yes he fled to Russia, "worse than USA!"
At least Russia is not wanting to put him in jail for the rest of his life just for being what I call the greatest patriot in generations.
Yes he committed Treason but it is against a low life government ran by the likes of Obama and Hillary.
That is much like high Treason against the Nazi rulers.

4 years ago

He fled to Russia which is even the worst than USA. pff

4 years ago

Snowden is at least free. No more US surveillence. What about Putin's blue eyed friends >?

4 years ago

The first premise of this doc is that FBI already had the tech. Joke show.

4 years ago

When people say "If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't need privacy" they assume "we the people" decide "right & wrong". We don't. The rulers do. "Right" is obedience to them, for them. We are their servants to be sacrificed. Rulers claim the opposite and people believe them, worship coercive gov and pretend they are free.

Iam Nooone
4 years ago

"As you read this, your government could be thumbing through your contacts"...could be? YOU MEAN ARE... with the help of Microsoft, facebook and all other social media who are giving or selling all your personal information to the government... how else do you think they stay in business....and their services are free? You are the prodct being sold.

4 years ago

safe to say that Snowden is under the same surveillance he warns us about LOL ironic

4 years ago

Seems like a hidden propaganda film. They mentioned terrorist attacks like 3 times.

charles g maki
4 years ago

for me, Snowden was preceded by people who worked under the same contractor, he ought to have contacted the people at the NSA but what does he do? He flees to Russia.

charles g maki
4 years ago

I was a lower level supporter of people who, during the cold war, in Turkey in the late 1950's. The collection of so called meta data is needed - the NSA selects the likely material and works on that. There is a problem that it is a politician who gives the ' go ahead' to institute this action.

4 years ago

Very sad that people's right to privacy is being eroded by governments and greedy corporations. That anyone for any reason can use your devices to listen in on your private conversations is chilling .and a wake up call to all of us that something is terribly wrong and must be combated.

5 years ago

@John Rossiter: " Arent [sic] all crimes solved then? Also, why aren't all conspiracies thwarted??" Well, because it's sometimes in the best interests of certain parties to not act on viable information. Are there bigger secrets involved? Is there a way to gain more information, or even influence, by not acting on such information? Sometimes inaction is the most effective form of action.

John Rossiter
5 years ago

While I have great admiration for Snowdon, and do agree with the majority viewpoints written here, Why.... Arent all crimes solved then? Also, why aren't all conspiracies thwarted??
Either standard law enforcement dont have or use this technology, or, They dont wanna solve everything for fear of showing their full hand.
I dont know the answer. But if they know and see everything, it sure doesnt seem like it!

Kevin Edge
5 years ago

Here in the UK the Police are by law supposed to get a magistrate 's warrant to bug land lines , from the local exchange. However, often they do not even bother to go down this route instead they dress up an officer in BT uniform with the necessary 'fake warrant' which is never left with the telephone exchange staff. Their officer then proceeds to the line box exchange and fixes the bug!

5 years ago

"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say" SO TRUE!

5 years ago

What gets me is that 2 independent committees (set up by the white house) found that mass surveillance doesn't work. Also the point that some make "If you aren't doing anything wrong then why are you worried about being spied on" is ridiculous. What these people who say this don't understand is the government don't just collect 'Bad people's' information they collect meta data from anyone and everyone. Just think, there is a very high chance that said government have nudes of you, have your intimate private conversations on record etc etc. Even if you respond to the prior with "It's fine I haven't done anything wrong" well as Cyborg009's joke suggests, maybe something innocent today will tomorrow be the opposite. It pains me how gutless and weak many citizens are today and just assume those in positions of power would never abuse it. Wake up and step out of your bubble.

5 years ago

so the message is the Boston Marathon bombing was real?? No it wasn't it was a staged false flag event. Snowden refers to the Tsarnaev brothers as terrorist while they weren't; they were patsies in a ridiculous theatre of fake terrorist events.

5 years ago

You're all missing something here. Many people in government already use surveillance to get ahead of people. They may have legal cases against the government, they may have research data they have been working on for their company or a deal they have been working on etc. Corrupt people in the government are using this information now to unethically get ahead of legal disputes or scoop deals or research from others. This is happening now. Don't trust people in government just because they are in positions of power. That is precisely why you shouldn't trust them.

5 years ago

The big problem with blanket surveillance is that the byproducts detected by the surveillance can be used maliciously. e.g. I get a court order to spy on a citizen who I (government agency) suspect is a terrorist. Surveillance proves that this citizen is not a terrorist but has not completed a tax return for the last three years. IRS then goes on the attack, freezes assets etc etc,

By the way. Tiger Lilly you are an i***t.

5 years ago

Good video

5 years ago

Hey b***h Julia 100!!! mind explaining why African tribes are primitive???

5 years ago

How can one be so surprised or amazed . . . Governments and such have been tracking others for centuries. For those in the US, surely it was with the Social Security Number. But OK, think of all those check cashing cards, store cards, membership/discount cards that are issued by nearly every store/shop, around the company; you can not tell me that they are for "customer loyalty", rather, they track you (yet people are like excited to get these.. to carry these cards) - the customer, so the "company" knows your spending habits... taking that information to sell you something else, or sell that information to another organization. Oh yes, don't forget the good old TRASH CAN and/or DUMPSTER... a tracking elements for years and years.

5 years ago

I call the whistleblowers the heroes of era; the globe's hero's. Has anybody heard of nano smart phones within your teeth bones working with....

Not in my lifetime I hope
5 years ago

Scary thought .... "turnkey tyranny" aka North Korea - imagine the horror of living like that ending up like Otto Warmbier ! NO THANKS

5 years ago


Why are people so worried about being spied on? If one is worried about being caught then uh... that person should probably be caught.

Watch... I'm going to go to prison for saying that XD"

The problem with this Tigerlilly is that a point is reached whereby the surveillance ensures totalitarian compliance to any rules devised by a government, no matter how extreme or how far these rules may be against your morals and beliefs. So perhaps right now the laws are all good and fine, but what if suddenly Mozart becomes considered a "disruptive media source that could possibly lead to terrorist action", or Beethoven, or the writing of Mark Twain or Shakespeare. Take Canada for instance. They are passing a bill that specifically makes Islamophobia a hate crime. Now I'm not saying people discriminating against anyone else is right. But when you specifically name a minority for protection under law, rather than providing equal rights to all, it is the beginning of a structured and legalized ostricization of the larger part of your population. This is much the same methods as employed by Hitler and the Nazi regime. Special protections and rights were assigned to the Aryans above and beyond the rest of the Germans. Now what if you happen, not to be an Islamophobic or an Islamist, but rather a believer in the original constitutional rights, whereby all should be afforded equal protections. What if your government viewed this standpoint as disruptive and against this specific law. They could use their high level surveillance to put you, and everyone you know, under the microscope. They could arrest you and detain you indefinitely since you are a perceived threat, and no doubt if you were outspoken enough to be singled out, then they could use your emails, your facebook, twitter, even your private conversations in the false comfort of your dinner table while you sit talking to family and don't realize the government turned on your phone camera and microphone. When in reality all you wanted to do was make sure everyone's rights were covered, you are now the criminal, and your rights have become non-existent.

Nancy Hollo
5 years ago

@tigerlilly and
You both have a point, but there's much more to the story. What you have or don't have to hide depends on who's in power at the moment. In a democracy like the U.S., we don't have to hide our political or religious ideas or activities. The danger is the possibility of the U.S. morphing into a totalitarian state. Under such conditions you'll have to continually worry about every word and deed and hide your privately held beliefs and convictions.

6 years ago

This is a bunch of shenanigans!

6 years ago

I really liked the ending phrase in what he said about what is coming and confronting the issue of our political elected leaders. It almost sounds frightening but in reality, when more of our society becomes aware then, more people would be willing to take a stand and not feel threatened anymore by the government who we've entrusted.
As the rapid growth of informational technology increases, the more it will be understood.
The problem here is that, too many folks are too engaged with other social media outlets where they are actually missing the point. We are in an age of newly innovated technology that sometime we are getting distracted by the things that please our eyes while our visionaries are bringing to the forefront exactly what we should all be learning as the technology evolves around us.
It's new age technology and it's available to us by these very individuals. We just have to open our minds too it and not get trapped in the social world of likes and status.

6 years ago

"Why are people so worried about being spied on? If one is worried about being caught then uh... that person should probably be caught."

You are assuming what is okay/harmless will always be so.

Here is a joke:
Three men are sitting in a cell in the (KGB headquarters) Dzerzhinsky Square. The first asks the second why he has been imprisoned, who replies, "Because I criticized Karl Radek." The first man responds, "But I am here because I spoke out in favor of Radek!" They turn to the third man who has been sitting quietly in the back, and ask him why he is in jail. He answers, "I'm Karl Radek."

6 years ago

This was extremely great to show people who are really naive to the state of surveilence in the our country and world today. It is short, only half hour long so really not a major time investment and things are explained in a way that doesn't require a masters degree in technology and communication devices to understand. I encourage everyone to watch this and share it with friends who may be naive to the current state of things as well. Knowledge is power and we as a people have to start paying serious attention to the things our government is up to because it's already gotten this far out of hand because we have been asleep at the wheel for a very long time! We all have to tune back in and start getting involved and demanding our elected officials start working towards returning this country to a place of freedom and liberty instead of the police state of surveilence, oppression and mass incarceration it has become! WAKE UP AMERICA!

6 years ago

Superb piece! Althought I wish they'd have delved deeper into the issue and perhaps made the docu longer, it is still some of the most valuable information about the shadow government and a powerful message that no one is safe from intelligence agencies' black programs.
6 years ago

What about the idea that yes they are surveilng us but only to catch the people who would commit violence! What about that?? How else could they prevent stuff they have to surveil us. Lets face it if you dont have anything to hide you dont have anything to worry about. Not to mention if everyone who smoked a joint were caught or in jail it would be half the population, well that maybe an exaggeration but you get the point. They are going for violent criminal crazies! Brought to you by

6 years ago

@Tigerlilly, let's say for the sake of argument, that everything the government says you shouldn't do, you shouldn't (obvious bs that is though) what happens when the government does things it DEFINETELY shouldn't (for the sake of power and or money and usually at a detriment to justice and freedom and the survival of the planet) and instead of people rising up together to change things, they're jailed or disapeared? You're too trusting of people just because they're "in charge", and or ignorant on the subject of human nature.

6 years ago

True visionary it is, Tigerlilly people are not worried for that reason. Wake up :)

Ariadne P
6 years ago

It's saddening how no leader from any government has ever done anything for the benefit of the people. Think about it

Krish B
6 years ago

While Tiger Lily may have a point that we should (theoretically) have nothing to hide, let me propose a scenario. There could be some people who may have interests in something that is not seen as socially normal. Now with data being collected on everybody, there is no guarantee that any information will be privately held by the government. If one of these people then plan to apply for a government position, they may be rejected simply based on something in their private life. What people do in their private life should typically not play a role in a professional career. There will of course be some exceptions to this, but who has the right to determine that. Furthermore, in saying that someone is not qualified because of something in their personal life, it is directly affecting this individual's right to self determination. It is hard to answer the question when does surveillance go too far. If the government is going to continue such surveillance activities, then there should be no interference with the organizations that are tasked to keep these surveillance programs in check and ensure that the public's rights (which these agencies are tasked to protect) are guaranteed. The issue then becomes that these agencies will say that their hands are tied, which is where our society needs to decide whether we want to compromise our rights for safety or vice versa.

Julia 100
6 years ago

Primitive tribes Life African Tribes Traditions Rituals And Ceremonies Tribes

6 years ago

It's funny that Vice will speculate about the horrors of Trump getting his hands on this surveillance power....but not Hillary. Very telling.

6 years ago

To that id**t Tiger Lily: "Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say"

NoMane Name
6 years ago

I remember reading recently about a new company in florida that has in store or will store a complete profile of every single American, ready for express access. Most all that I could imagine might be stored in each of these profiles. If I remember correctly.

6 years ago

of course (((vice))) calls ferguson a "citizen led protest"

6 years ago

o-oh. Boston bombing. Snowden fingering the patsies - no mention of Craft International. Snowden is a pseudo - unfortunately.

6 years ago

Anyone who knows your cell phone number, can buy an app. to track you. Anyone, like thieves, stalkers, jealous partners. I know someone that when they went to work people were going into their house. They were taking things and adulterating their food and beverages. They bought a camera surveillance system, and noticed the loop in the footage. They looked it up online and found out for $15.00 you can buy a frequency jammer. And it's not like this person was rich or had expensive things. So it's not just government and corporations. It could be your crazy neighbor with too much time on their hands.

6 years ago

Great stuff, but scary.

Also, why can't we have men like Eric Snowden as leaders? We always get the cowardly, greedy, self-serving, delusional, power-hungry nut-jobs that manage to rise to the top. Like so many 'floaters,' I guess.

6 years ago

Snowden is a total genius hero. Steven L. Jones is totally right. In future, we might get even more oppressive governments, or corporations with more control, and we will not be able to say or do anything against it to get our human rights back, cuz they know EVERYTHING about us.