A CIA conflict with internet companies

Mashari Althaydi

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It was always said that the work of a journalist is similar to the intelligence agent or the security services analyst because the journalist and the security agent are both looking for information, at any price.

This was back in the old days when the spy used to break into the neighborhood or sit in a cafe reading his newspaper upside down. Back then, the journalist used to carry around his small notebook and chase sources in dark backstreets.

Now, the scene has evolved and both parties (journalists and security agents) have clashed at the highest imaginable level.

Last Wednesday, the CIA accused Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website belonging to Australian hacker Assange, of helping US rivals by revealing the methods used by the agency to turn your iPhone or Samsung TV for example, into spying tools.

Wikileaks revealed information exposing more than a thousand hacking programs that allow controlling electronic devices such as smart phones, televisions connected to the Internet and even cars, in order to spy on their users!

This is to be added to the spy scandal of the US “traitor” (as per the American description), Edward Snowden in 2013, who revealed how the National Security Agency hacked Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Security agencies are a mighty complex of strength in term of technology. They usually attract genius members to employ their skills for the benefit of the system… the same applies to companies.


From a security point of view, the monopoly of social media companies, smart phone manufacturers and all digital communications systems as well as car displays and modern televisions manufacturers in this thrilling world, is abusing security to make many steps forward in the race for information.

In this regard, we recall how the American security services clashed with Apple Company when the latter refused to unlock the phone of the terrorist who killed people in San Bernardino in December 2015.

In August 2016, a deputy in the British Parliament complained about the non-cooperation of Internet companies that own the most interactive applications, when they were asked to check some accounts or their contents, explaining that this falls under the “protection of the terms” of these companies.

This is a terrible dilemma between the necessities of security measures regardless how tough and interfering they are, and the interests of big companies that claim that they are keen on protecting the privacy of their users, but in fact, they only want to increase the numbers of clients and users. If it was really a matter of privacy, how did Whatsapp sell the numbers of the users to Facebook breaching prior pledges to protect privacy and data?

The officer and the trader, including the journalist, are all striving to get into your privacy, while you grant them your most valuable product… that is your life.

The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.