Sypware from other agencies allows them to access location data from cell phones without making special requests to carriers, take secret photos of users and their surroundings, record or change the text of messages and record every keystroke on a particular phone, Assange said Monday at a conference held by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism held at the City University in London.
The 287 documents described covert activity by 160 security and surveillance companies in 25 countries. Most of the spyware is active even when the phones are in standby mode and can run on Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Mobile operating systems.
University of Cambridge researcher Steven Murdoch charged that intelligence agencies are spying on their own citizens not out of any suspicion that individuals among them are up to no good, but as a wholesale strategy to collect information on the assumption it may eventually be useful.
"We're seeing increasingly wholesale monitoring of entire populations with no suspicion of wrongdoing," Murdoch said during the panel session. Without controls on this industry, the threat that surveillance poses to freedom of expression and human rights in general is only going to increase."
The information comes mainly from a 2011 investigation by British non-governmental organization Privacy International, whose investigators gathered information about government-sponsored domestic digital espionage by posing as buyers to get private briefings, confidential background information, technical specifications and other data from many of the security and surveillance companies cited in the WikiLeaks revelations, according to TheRegister.
Privacy International's announcement of the report Big Brother Incorporated said investigators were shocked not only by the scope of the surveillance, but how open they were in talking about their work with secret government agencies and handing out documentation backing up their claims.