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Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, who famously copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013 without permission, has helped develop plans for a smartphone case that could prevent digital surveillance.
The plans are outlined in an online paper called ‘Against The Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance’. In the paper, Snowden and Singapore-based hacker Andrew ‘Bunnie’ Huang, outline plans to create a smartphone case that is able to display a notification and spark an alarm when the device’s cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other radio connections are sending and receiving data.
The said device will feature a ‘kill switch’ that can forcibly disconnect power to the device if a signal appears to be transmitting information without the user’s permission or knowledge. In addition, the protective case obscures the rear camera lens to prevent the recording of videos.
An iPhone 6 is used for demonstration in the paper, but the design of the protective case is said be compatible with any type of smartphone device. Snowden and Bunnie have made their plans for the device protector ‘open source’ so that anyone can use the information and create one of their own. The two designers have said that if prototypes are successful, they will look to the Freedom of the Press Foundation to potentially fund production of them.
Snowden now leads the Freedom of Press Foundation, a non-profit that hopes to raise public awareness about surveillance operations. The device was primarily intended to protect journalists, such as those reporting from war zones or corresponding under strict regimes. The device protector could prove to be life-saving for journalists operating in high-risk situations. For example, in 2012 Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochli were killed after Syrian government forces traced their position from their mobiles.
Snowden, ever-weary of the information that he shares, told WIRED that he has not carried a smartphone for three years, because “wireless devices are kind of kryptonite to me.” He is still in temporary asylum in Moscow following the United States filing a criminal complaint against him under the Espionage Act.