posted on Sep, 27 2013 @ 04:46 PM
Matchstick-Sized Sensor Can Record
Your (Outdoor) Private Chats
EVERYONE knows that to have a private chat in the NSA era, you go outdoors. Phones, the internet, email and your office can all be compromised with
ease. But soon even that whispered conversation in the park may no longer be safe from prying ears. A Dutch acoustics firm, Microflown Technologies,
has developed a matchstick-sized sensor that can pinpoint and record a target's conversations from a distance. Earlier this year, Microflown's
researchers discovered by chance that the device can hear, record or stream an ordinary conversation from as far away as 20 metres, says Hans-Elias de
Bree, the firm's co-founder. Signal-processing software filters out unwanted noise like wind or traffic commotion. Work is now underway to increase
Given a battery and a tiny antenna, the sensor could be attached to traffic lights, a shrub or park bench. Such systems can be teamed with
surveillance cameras. Detecting a shout or a gunshot, the sensor can direct the camera to the precise location of trouble, the way our ears work with
our eyes. It can then start recording everything that is being said in that location.
A number of countries are now testing the matchstick sensor attached to drones and crewed vehicles, says de Bree. He foresees governments placing them
on small dirigibles that tail suspects or hover over political rallies.
"Not only could this work, it has worked," says Ron Barrett-Gonzalez at the University of Kansas. He has helped boost the sensor's range by 28 per
cent to more than 25 metres. It will be possible to record a parade of people on a busy sidewalk all day using a camera and acoustic sensor, and tune
into each conversation or voice, live or via stored files, he says.
Security technologist Bruce Schneier says this new capability is unwelcome – particularly given the recent claims about the NSA's success at
tapping into our private lives. "It's not just this one technology that's the problem," Schneier says. "It's the mic plus the drones, plus the
signal processing, plus voice recognition."