When Edward Snowden leaked explosive details of the US government’s extensive surveillance program back in 2013, he divided opinion around the world.
Was he a traitor, or a brave whistleblower sacrificing his personal freedom to expose the truth?
Whatever your opinion of Snowden, his latest move has certainly got people talking. Now living in exile in Russia, he’s helped to create an app that will alert users to anyone trying to tamper with their digital possessions.
The app, called Haven, is the result of a joint venture between Snowden’s Freedom of the Press Foundation and The Guardian Project, a collective of developers and designers who create security software to counter increasing global surveillance. Like the rest of their projects, Haven is open source – meaning that anyone can inspect and make modifications to its code.
According to a press release, Haven has been designed especially with sensitive individuals in mind – for example, people like journalists or human rights activists who may be particularly vulnerable to surveillance. By loading the app onto a spare smartphone, then leaving that device with the possessions that they wish to monitor, users can keep track of any potential interference.
“Imagine you are a journalist working in a hostile foreign country and you are worried about security services breaking into your hotel room and rifling through your belongings and computer while you are away. Haven detects changes in the environment using the sensors in a typical smartphone – the camera, microphone, gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light, USB power – to alert you if someone enters your space or attempts to tamper with your devices while you aren’t there.” – Haven press release
When activated, the app sends information about any activity to users via a secure server on the dark web – or by SMS if they are unable to access data.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, some people have questioned whether Snowden is the best person to be creating security apps – given his status as a government whistleblower.
However, with its open source approach, Haven claims to be totally transparent – so even those who do not trust Edward Snowden personally should be able to benefit from the technology.