No joke: Trump’s new Putin soccer ball might actually have a hidden radio


Chris McGrath/Techhnews

When Vladimir Putin handed Donald Trump a gift soccer ball, many — including US Sen. Lindsey Graham — half-joked that he should probably check it for listening devices. You know: because Putin’s a former KGB spy, if nothing else.

Well, it turns out that the Addias soccer ball probably does have a hidden wireless radio inside! Just not the one you might have imagined.

A close-up.


Chris McGrath/Techhnews

Eagle-eyes at Bloomberg noticed that this particular ball has a very specific logo — see image above — that indicates the presence of an near-field communication (NFC) chip inside. 

Not familiar with
NFC
? It’s the same tech you find in tap-to-pay-with-your-phone cash registers, among other things, and it’s generally used for very, very short-range, low-power radio communication.

In fact, an Adidas FAQ claims that the NFC chip in this particular model of soccer ball is probably among the least sophisticated uses of NFC you could possibly run across — it basically just sends a URL to your phone to launch a companion Adidas app, and it’s hard-coded so Russia couldn’t (easily) replace that instruction with something more nefarious.

That doesn’t mean Putin couldn’t have installed an actual listening device inside the soccer ball, of course — but this NFC chip probably wouldn’t cut it. 

Plus: “The security screening process that is done for all gifts was done for the soccer ball,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told Bloomberg.

The White House and Adidas didn’t immediately respond to Techhnews’s requests for comment.

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