US whistle-blower Edward Snowden has helped create an app aimed at “journalists and human rights defenders” who want to protect their possessions.
The Android app – Haven – uses the common sensors found in modern smartphones such as the cameras, microphones and motion detectors to monitor surroundings and create a kind of security system which can be used to protect and monitor personal items or space.
The app is based around users deploying a spare phone, and has been created in part by the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), an organisation Snowden is board president of, along with The Guardian Project.
The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after leaking details of extensive surveillance by intelligence agencies in the US.
Haven has been made available open source, meaning its code can be inspected and individually edited by users to suit them.
FPF executive director Trevor Timm said the app was designed to offer peace of mind to those who feel they might be at risk over the work they do.
“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,” he said.
“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 anyone enters your space or attempts to tamper with your devices while you aren’t there.”
If any movement or disruption is detected, Haven is designed to send notifications to users via encrypted messaging services and uses an anonymous communication service to allow users to keep an eye on the device.
“The Haven app can then send end-to-end encrypted alerts to your phone via Signal, and you can monitor activity remotely through a Tor Onion Service,” Timm said.
The app is in the beta testing phase for now – and the two organisations behind it are also accepting feedback on it – but can be downloaded free from the Google Play Store.