His leaks opened the world's eyes to government snooping. Now, former CIA employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden is teaching users how to disable their mobile devices' ears.
In a clip from an upcoming episode of Vice on HBO, Snowden teaches Vice's Shane Smith, and subsequently anyone else watching, how to prevent being spied on through a smartphone. It's a pair of extreme, yet effective, measures anyone can take if they fear that someone might tap into their phone's camera and microphone system.
In the Vice segment, titled "Go Black," Snowden concedes that he's such a high-profile target that the NSA could "pop his box" whenever it wanted to do so.
However, for most people contending with forces not as strong as government spy agencies, gouging out the eyes and puncturing the ear drums of a smartphone should be an effective measure in keeping their handsets from stabbing them in their backs.
"If you know you're actively under threat," says Snowden. "If you know your phone has been hacked, these are ways that you can ensure that your phone works for you rather than working for somebody else. You might have bought the phone, but whoever hacked it, they're the one who owns it."
It may sound to some people that someone "going black" deserves a tinfoil crown. But every month, millions of people download new apps and many of them give the app permission to control their mobile device's cameras, microphones and other sensors.
In some cases, it could be paranoia, but it is certainly possible to turn a mobile device into a bug, a very sophisticated bug. The U.S. government has already begun looking past tapping into mobile devices and could be examining connected devices now, going by remarks made by U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
"In the future, intelligence services might use the [Internet of Things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials," Clapper said during a senate hearing on cybersecurity.
Check out Vice on HBO guide to going black and never going back to plain vanilla, un-modded mobile device.