The prototype of the case shows a small, monochromatic display built into the casing, which shows whether the phone is “idle” or transmitting information. Besides, the case is also able to supply a device with extra battery power and cover the rear-facing camera. Snowden also explained that the item could be developed to act as a kind of “kill switch” that would disconnect a phone’s power supply once detecting that a radio is transmitting information after its owner turned it off.
Although this phone case is just an academic project and is not ready for the mass market, it could still influence how consumers view the “tracking devices” or regular smartphones. The former NSA contractor explained that if you have a phone in your pocket, a long-lived record of your movements is being created, as the smartphone is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals. This communication is not only saved by that phone company, but can also be observed by independent third parties.
Even when you turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular transmission in airplane mode, it can’t be trusted, because some malware can activate radios without any indication from the user interface.
The project is part of Snowden’s work to inform the public about the surveillance capabilities of the governments. Three years ago, he revealed the truth about mass surveillance programs from the NSA and has since become a recognizable name that can explain these issues in a comprehensible way.
The phone case developers admit the device is likely to remain a mockup, because the project is run largely through volunteer efforts. Apparently, if the proper funding is raised, they could release the device in partnership with the media advocacy group and use it to help protect journalists. So far, the designers are concentrating on working with iPhone, but the device could be modified to work on other models.