Edward Snowden wants to help protect your privacy with an app designed to transform any Android phone into a sensor for detecting intrusions.
According to Wired, the app, called Haven, is designed to be installed on a cheap Android burner, using the phone’s cameras, microphones and even accelerometers to monitor for any motion, sound or disturbance of the phone.
For example, you can leave the app running in your hotel room so it can capture photos and audio of anyone entering the room when you’re not there, such as the maid. It will then instantly send pictures and sound clips of those visitors to your primary phone. Haven even uses the phone’s light sensor to trigger an alert if the room goes dark, or if an unexpected flashlight flickers.
“Imagine if you had a guard dog you could take with you to any hotel room and leave it in your room when you’re not there. And it’s actually smart, and it witnesses everything that happens and creates a record of it,” Snowden said in an encrypted phone call with Wired from Moscow, where he has lived in exile since 2013. “The real idea is to establish that the physical spaces around you can be trusted.”
As the director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Snowden leads a small team of programmers and technologists working on security tools, with projects ranging from software that only allows secrets to be decrypted if a group of collaborators combine their keys, to a hardware modification for the iPhone that’s designed to detect if malware on the device is secretly transmitting a user’s data.
Haven could even potentially protect its users against everyone from abusive spouses to authoritarian police. In November, the group teamed up with the Colombian activism group Movilizatorio to conduct a trial with social justice activists, who have been targeted by dozens of assassinations over the last year.
Movilizatorio founder Juliana Uribe Villegas said the app provided a key reassurance that government or criminal agents weren’t breaking into activists’ homes to plant surveillance equipment that month – or, far worse, to kidnap or physically harm them.
“It’s very significant for them to know that they have tools they can use themselves when the government isn’t protecting them,” Uribe Villegas said. “It’s great to think about cybersecurity, but in countries like ours, personal security is still at the top of our list.”
Haven also takes measures to ensure that its technology cannot be turned against a phone’s owner. It integrates the encrypted messaging app Signal, so that all information it sends to the user is end-to-end encrypted. Users can also configure Haven to work with the Android app Orbot, which has an option to turn your phone into a so-called Tor Onion Service – essentially, a server on the darknet.
“Now you can take this huge aggregation of sensors available on any phone today –accelerometers, light sensors, cameras, microphones – and make it work for you and only you,” said Snowden, who added that despite his avoidance of carrying a smartphone, he has used Haven in hotel rooms while traveling and at home.