Edward Snowden has teamed up with two groups to develop a new, free app that turns smartphones into surveillance beacons for journalists seeking to secure sensitive laptops or parents seeking a more advanced baby monitor. (via Freedom.press)
Edward Snowden's journey has been remarkable, and it seems he is continuing the mission. (See my Snowden movie review)
Whether you are a journalists seeking a tool to protect sensitive electronic information from compromising physical attacks, or a homeowner desiring an inexpensive mobile monitoring system, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, mobile security developer The Guardian Project, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) have teamed up to release a free open-source app designed to turn any Android smartphone into a versatile surveillance beacon.
Released Friday and available in beta version on Google Play, the new app, called Haven, enables users to transform any spare Android smartphone into what Snowden – in a video accompanying the news release – calls a “safe room that fits into your pocket.”
Here’s how it works: Haven is designed for use with two smartphones: your primary phone that you carry, and a secondary, inexpensive phone that you keep in close proximity to the laptop or other item requiring safeguarding. The app turns the secondary phone into a mobile security system by utilizing the device’s existing technology – cameras, light and motion sensors, microphones, etc. – to detect any movement or sound that could represent a threat. In the event of a detected anomaly, Haven sends an alert containing pertinent information – pictures, videos, and sound recordings – to your primary phone via an end-to-end encrypted Signal message, allowing immediately assessment of the threat while ensuring all relayed information remains private.
Haven operation image. Source: Guardian Project. Caption: Screenshot of Signal messages sent by Haven showing photo and sound evidence of potential intrusion.
In the video, Snowden, who serves as FPF board president and led the Haven project for the organization, says that the app “makes it harder to silence citizens” through raids or arrests, since those seeking to compromise information held by journalists or activists must now consider the potential presence of a cutting-edge monitor that pairs the most advanced smartphone technologies with the most secure messaging services.
While Haven’s developers primarily framed the app upon release as a way to protect journalists and activists, Snowden adds that “you don’t have to be saving the world” to benefit from the technology. He explains that it can serve to protect anything valuable, from treasured personal keepsakes to expensive professional equipment – or as the Guardian Foundation touts in its release – even the people close to you, including the potential to serve as the “world’s most advanced baby monitor.” Snowden further expanded on the app’s potential as an inexpensive home monitoring system in an interview with Wired.
While the app is available for free, FPF is accepting donations on its webpage to support the product through its beta stage. Trevor Timm, Executive Director of FPF, said in the news release that the organization is “looking for testers, developers, designers, and partners, to build the community that can make Haven all it can be.” Given the coverage that the app has drawn across hundreds of media outlets since its release Friday, it’s a good bet that FPF’s clarion call has reached many able to help do just that.
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