Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who exposed mass amounts of classified government records, is developing a cell phone that safeguards journalists from government surveillance.
Snowden, who is currently taking refuge in Russia, is working to alter a smartphone to have an automatic feature that alerts reporters of potential digital intrusion, especially while working in precarious territories.
“If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movement has been created,” Snowden said, according to The Guardian. He continued:
As a result of the way the cell network functions your device is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. And this unique identity is not only saved by that phone company, but it can also be observed as it travels over the air by independent, even more dangerous third parties.
Snowden made the announcement in a video live stream Thursday at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference. The one-day convention, called “Forbidden Research,” centered on the dilemmas of computer hacking, but also included debate over the experimentation of morally disputed scientific fields like genetic engineering.
The project epitomizes Snowden’s effort to equip the masses with anti-surveillance resources, while sparking the curiosity of tech experts and engineers to develop something similar.
Snowden showed off a very early mock-up during the conference, adding he is testing it on the Apple iPhone. Snowden is working with Andrew Huang, an MIT-educated computer hacker, to explore the technological possibility, according to The New York Times.
“Over the coming year, we hope to prototype and verify the introspection engine’s abilities,” Snowden and Huang said, according to The Guardian. “As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time.”
Even though Huang described the project as speculative and in the preliminary phases, he was hopeful that it could eventually come to fruition. Snowden and Huang have a lengthy blueprint for the progress they have made and the ultimate goals for the final product.
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