Hacktivism hero Edward Snowden is shifting careers it seems. While staying true to his ultimate dream of online transparency across the world, Snowden has stepped into the world of product design as he unveiled a phone case that can detect when the device’s radio is transmitting.
The case has wires which connect itself to the interior of the iPhone using the SIM card slot to monitor electrical signals sent to its internal antennas. He presented the concept and the design at the MIT Media Lab’s Forbidden Research event with hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang. The case is still at the concept stage and is designed especially for journalists who want to conceal their location. But more importantly, Snowden believes it will come in handy exposing the hidden surveillance that the government carries out on smartphones.
“Because of the precedent set by the U.S.’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,” they said at the event.
The duo apparently went to the electronic market in Shenzhen, China to collect spare parts and blueprints of the iPhone 6 which were used to engineer the device. An advanced version of the design might include the option to obscure the camera physically. “Our approach is: state-level adversaries are powerful, assume the phone is compromised,” told Huang to Wired. “Let’s look at hardware-related signals that are extremely difficult to fake. We want to give a you-bet-your-life assurance that the phone actually has its radios off when it says it does.” The case might just be a life saver for the journalists in war-torn areas like Iraq and Syria.
What do you feel about the case?