Snowden described the device on July 21, 2016, during a presentation at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab event. It was the first time that Snowden, who currently lives in Russia, presented original research at a U.S. university.
When Edward Snowden met with reporters in a Hong Kong hotel room to spill the NSA's secrets, he famously asked them put their phones in the fridge to block any radio signals that might be used to silently activate the devices' microphones or cameras.
So it's fitting that 3 years later, he's returned to that smartphone radio surveillance problem. Now Snowden's attempting to build a solution that's more compact than a hotel fridge.
The ex-National Security Agency analyst hopes the case for the iPhone 6 will prevent the phone from transmitting certain data, particularly the location of the user. Snowden want to develop technology that prevents a person's phone from being used as a tracking device, even if it's in airplane mode, even if the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC (for Apple Pay) are supposedly turned off.
The new case, which is still at concept stage, is designed for front-line journalists who wish to conceal their location. However, Snowden hopes the device will eventually serve another purpose: exposing hidden government surveillance of smartphones. The case, which slips over the bottom of the phone, connects to the SIM card port and monitors outbound data, is being co-developed with well-known hardware hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang, a Singapore-based American hacker. An alarm would be triggered, should the device detect an unwanted signal.
The project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, Snowden and Huang said.
A prototype of the case is expected next year, but don't expect it to be widely available.
Snowden and Huang are concentrating on working with Apple's iPhone, but also said the device could be modified to work on other smartphones.
Snowden told that he hasn't used a smartphone since 2013 for fear of being tracked. They're kind of like kryptonite to me, he said.