Trump-Putin summit soccer ball: he probably isn’t spying on Trump

“If that was me, I would check the soccer ball for listening devices and never let it enter the White House,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted after Russian leader Vladimir Putin presented President Donald Trump with a soccer ball during his press conference in Helsinki, Finland last week.

It turns out that the soccer ball – which looked like the 2018 Adidas Soccer World Cup ball – could have been fitted with a chip commonly used in sports equipment.

The chip, if installed, can connect to cellphones so that users can get exclusive content and other updates. This “NFC” technology – Near Field Communication – appears in many sports equipment and clothing, to the disappointment of those who hope for a Americans-esque espionage plot. (It’s the same technology used to pay with your phone. Vox’s Dylan Matthews has a similar chip in his hand.)

Bloomberg first spotted the NFC tag logo on the ball, indicating that he could were given to Trump with this chip. (It could also have been removed, or could be a different bullet than the one Adidas is selling.) The White House told Bloomberg that Putin’s giveaway had undergone “the security screening process that is done for all giveaways. “, but did not elaborate further on the security procedures.

Adidas declined to comment to Bloomberg on whether the chip could be co-opted by Russian spies, but according to Bloomberg, the Adidas website says “it is not possible to remove or rewrite the encoded parameters.”

So Putin probably wasn’t ostensibly planting a bug with the president. But Graham’s first comments aren’t totally out of the ordinary. The Soviet Union was known to try to annoy the United States during the Cold War, and did a pretty decent job, as a Politico article noted last May.

Concerns were expressed about the security risks during Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak last year, when photographers from TASS, the Russian state-run news agency, attended the meeting – with all their electronic equipment. . (Trump ended up revealing sensitive intelligence for free.)

Either way, Trump handed the ball to his wife Melania, with instructions to give it to their son Barron – so America’s best-kept secrets are likely still safe.