Working with noted computer researcher/hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has created a design for an “introspection engine” that detects unwanted radio signals from attached iPhones. They envision the device could be used by journalists who want to ensure their iPhones don’t reveal information about their locations when in airplane mode.
Snowden (pictured above), the former NSA contractor who in 2013 provided journalists with classified information about widespread government surveillance on citizens, described the device today during a presentation with Huang at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab event. It was the first time that Snowden, who currently lives in exile in Russia, presented original research at a U.S. university.
In the research paper, “Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance,” Snowden and Huang explained how they developed the design based on iPhone-related documentation and parts purchased at an electronics market in China. While their design was created specifically with Apple’s iPhone 6 in mind, they said the underlying principles would allow such a device to work with any type of phone.
MIT ‘Forbidden Research’
“Front-line journalists are high-value targets, and their enemies will spare no expense to silence them,” Snowden and Huang said in the research paper, presented today in a day-long, invitation-only symposium on “Forbidden Research” at MIT’s Media Lab event. “Unfortunately, journalists can be betrayed by their own tools. Their smartphones are also the perfect tracking device.”
While in Hong Kong in 2013, Snowden famously asked journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras to remove their cellphone batteries and store them in a hotel refrigerator to avoid concerns about unwanted surveillance. He made similar requests of attorneys he met with during his stay in Hong Kong.
“Because of the precedent set by the U.S.’s ‘third-party doctrine,’ which holds that metadata on…