When Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Donald Trump a soccer ball last week, there were those in the United States who stood up and warned: It could be a spy device.
After all, the American intelligence agencies themselves have determined that Russia has been conducting, and still is conducting, spying on US soil under Putin’s orders, and therefore the Russian president himself may take part in the surveillance.
Now it turns out that these warnings, even if many made them only as a joke, are not so far from reality.
Bloomberg reports that the ball Putin gave to Trump at the Helsinki summit does contain a tracking chip.
According to the site’s experts, the signs on the ball, produced by Adidas, indicate that this is a type of ball containing a chip with a tiny antenna transmitting messages to nearby mobile phones.
However, this is not a Russian chip that has been incorporated into a ball for espionage purposes, but rather a means that Adidas itself has planted for marketing purposes.
Bloomberg’s report said that during the production of the ball, an NFC chip is implanted in it, and by bringing a cell phone closer to the chip, fans can consume content related to famous soccer teams and soccer players.
Bloomberg noted that for the time being, there is no information that could cause such chips to be sensitive to safety and that Adidas cannot change its structure and content to be used for other purposes.
However, Bloomberg points out that in 2015 a hacker proved that at least theoretically such chips could be programmed so that they could be used to attack cell phones.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders made it clear that the ball, like any gift received by President Donald Trump, was transferred last week for security checks.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, one of Trump’s most vocal critics in his own party, wrote last week on Twitter: “I would make sure there were no eavesdropping devices in the ball, and I would never put him in the White House.”
Putin gave the ball to Trump during their press conference at the end of their summit meeting in Helsinki, the same press conference that caused a storm in the US because Trump supported it in Putin claimed that Russia did not intervene in the US elections – accusing Washington of worsening relations with Moscow.
During the press conference, Putin signaled to his people in the audience, they passed him the ball, then the Russian president gave him a ride, ostensibly as a sign of the transfer of responsibility for hosting the World Cup from Russia to the United States, who will host the tournament together with Canada and Mexico in 2026:
“Mr. President, I’ll give you the ball, and now the ball is in your court,” Putin said – a sentence carrying a thick diplomatic hint against the background of the difficult relations that have been prevalent in recent years between Russia and the United States.
Trump stated that he would give the ball to Baron, his 12-year-old son, then he handed it to his wife, Melania. She could not catch it, and after the ball fell to the floor Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who sat next to her, took it over and handed her the ball. Sources in the room testified that she seemed very dissatisfied with the gesture.
President Trump’s son Baron is an avid soccer fan and plays in a group in Washington, DC.