The History of Phone Bugging
Phone call surveillance has a long and colorful history. Ever since there have been telephones, there have been phone bugs. For law enforcement agents, spy organizations and even criminals themselves, phone bugging has been one of the easiest and most popular means of eavesdropping on conversations.
And as phone technology has evolved, so have phone bugging techniques. Phone bugging, also known as phone tapping or wiretapping, has been around since the 1890s. The term “wiretapping” comes from the early days of telephone call surveillance, when the practice involved the physical tapping of a phone wire with an electrical device. Since the early days of phone surveillance, there have been legal dilemmas and a myriad of regulations concerning the lawful use of wiretapping devices weighed against the rights of privacy for individuals.
Many controversies and scandals have revolved around the use of wiretapping techniques. Perhaps the most famous example was the Nixon administration’s use of illegal phone bugging tactics in the United States to spy on the activities of political opponents and others. The FBI’s infamous long-term director, J. Edgar Hoover, was also at the center of many controversial cases involving the often illegal use of phone surveillance technologies to spy on US citizens and public figures.
has always been a favorite surveillance method among spy organizations worldwide. During the Cold War era, wiretapping became so widespread that it became standard procedure to check for bugging devices on the phones of diplomats, military intelligence personnel or anyone else who might have secrets or information of interest to “the enemy”.
In recent years, the definition of wiretapping has expanded to include the surveillance of emails, text messages and voice conversations on computers and other Internet-connected devices, as well as traditional phone calls. The ongoing drama revolving around the leak of information by the US National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden highlights just how controversial surveillance activities can be, even in these modern times.
Evolving Surveillance Technology
As phone technology has evolved and become ever more sophisticated, so have surveillance methods and phone bugging techniques. With the advent of cell phones and smartphones, surveillance technology has been refined and updated to meet the challenge. The old era of actual wiretapping is long gone and phone bugging is now in the realm of programmers and encryption experts. But as long as information is valuable, people will find a way to access it. Today’s phone bugging techniques are more about software and code and less and less about hardware. Governments and intelligence agencies (as well as criminals) now have the ability to not only listen in, but to also record, store and access huge databases of call information.
The collection and use of cell phone information by governments is a burning political issue. Many feel that government spy agencies have overstepped the bounds and there is a growing outcry against the widespread surveillance of citizens. But at this point, it seems unlikely that the trend towards universal monitoring of phone calls will be reversed. It seems that Big Brother is here to stay.