Pentagon Wants To Spot Illnesses By Monitoring Soldiers’ Smartphones

Imagine your smartphone’s camera, microphone and motion sensors were monitoring you for signs of illness. That’s the future envisioned by scientists at the Pentagon’s secretive weapons development arm, where such a system is being built to keep tabs on deployed U.S. service members.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced Thursday that it has awarded a $5.1 million contract to the Fairfax, Virginia-based cybersecurity company Kryptowire to develop what DARPA calls the “Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health” program, or WASH for short. The app would be used to spot diseases based on data that it collects from a person’s smartphone.

Tom Karygiannis, Kryptowire’s vice president of product, said he hopes the technology can one day broaden access to health care by spotting health problems before a person visits a doctor or nurse. “Ultimately, this could mean better treatment, cost savings and making treatment available to more people,” he said.

But the idea has privacy advocates spooked.

“If you’re activating a microphone on someone’s phone, that is going to raise a lot of alarms,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. “People don’t want to feel like someone is listening in on their private life. That’s going to have to be subject to tight controls.”

For DARPA, the goal is to help the…

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