Edward Snowden has co-designed a mobile phone case which he claims will show when the device is transmitting data which could be monitored by surveillance organisations.
The “introspection engine”, which is still a long way off from mass market launch, holds a small display fitted into its case which displays when the phone is transmitting traceable data and when it’s “dark”.
The introspection engine will also be capable of providing extra battery power for iPhones, and can cover the phone’s rear-facing cover.
Even though the device is still some way off, Snowden and co-designer Andrew “Bunnie” Huang suggested it could still influence the way people think about surveillance and the way they use their smartphones – or “tracking devices” as the pair described them.
Presenting to MIT Media Lab in Massachusetts via video link, Snowden said: “If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created.
“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.”
In the paper outlining the introspection engine, Snowdn and Huang admitted that it may never get off the ground, but they remain hopeful.
“Over the coming year, we hope to prototype and verify the introspection engine’s abilities,” they said. “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.”