Edward Snowden knows a thing or two about privacy and he’s planning on sharing a piece of it with the world.
The NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower is creating a high-tech iPhone case that will be able to detect when your data is being monitored.
The design is a collaborative effort between Snowden and hardware hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, and will keep tabs on your phone's cellular, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections to determine when their electrical signals are being used to transmit data.
A conceptual plan for the ‘introspection engine’ as it’s known, was unveiled by Snowden during a video link appearance at an MIT Media Lab research event in the US. The case itself will wire directly into the iPhone’s interior via the sim card slot, and will have an exterior display screen that tells the owner whether their phone is ‘dark’ or transmitting.
Down the track, the design may be modified to block the iPhone’s rear-facing camera lens.
While still being developed, Snowden and Huang say in an accompanying paper that the case is designed to counter lawful abuses of digital surveillance, particularly for front-line journalists who he deems “high-value targets” being “betrayed by their own tools”.
“Their smartphones are also the perfect tracking device,” they explain “Because of the precedent set by the US’s ‘third-party doctrine,’ which holds that metadata on such signals enjoys no meaningful legal protection, governments and powerful political institutions are gaining access to comprehensive records of phone emissions unwittingly broadcast by device owners.”
“This leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability.”
Interestingly, Snowden himself does not use a smartphone and hasn’t used one since he started leaking classified government documents to the media.
“Since 2013, I haven’t been able to have a smartphone like normal people,” he tells Wired, “Wireless devices are kind of like kryptonite to me.”