From now on Icelandic ministers have to leave their cell phones by the door before entering cabinet meetings, a precaution partially brought on because of fears of espionage.
When the ministers of the cabinet showed up for a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, they were required for the first time to turn off their cell-phones and leave them in an envelope by the door before the meeting started.
This is a security precaution to prevent information leaking from the meetings, spurred by news of how the US government has monitored cell phones of world leaders in the past few years.
A lecturer in computer science at the Reykjavík University told RÚV that cell phones can be broken into and used as recording devices.
“You can have the phone record everything without it being noticed; you can have it take photos, copy all data such as pictures and contact lists and even install new software,” Ýmir Vigfússon said, adding this could be done even when the owner isn’t using the cell phone.
The WikiLeaks files leaked by whistle blower Edward Snowden earlier this year revealed how the US government had spied on 35 world leaders, amongst them Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany.
They also showed that staff at the US embassy in Reykjavík believed that the Chinese carried out industrial espionage of genetics research in Iceland, and were being monitored by the Russians while at it.
It is yet unclear who might be interested in spying on the cabinet meetings but Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Pirate Party MP, has claimed that British authorities spied on Icelanders in the IceSave negotiation committee.
Apart from having to leave their cell phones out of cabinet meetings, ministers have also been advised not to discuss confidential matters over cell phones and there’s even been talk of not allowing people to bring cell phones to any meetings with ministers.