News & Opinion | July 27, 2018 10:46 am

Putin’s Soccer Ball For Trump May Carry a Transmitter Chip

It's actually supposed to be there.

soccer ball
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives U.S. President Donald Trump a soccer ball during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. (Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Getty Images

After Russian President Vladimir Putin gave U.S. President Donald Trump a soccer ball last week, people started voicing concern — both in jest and not — that the World Cup souvenir could be bugged.

It turns out that markings on the ball indicate that it contained a chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones, writes Bloomberg. But it is not a spy device — instead, the chip is an advertised feature of the Adidas AG ball. You can see in pictures of Putin and Trump that the ball bore a logo for a near-field communication tag. During manufacturing, the NFC chip is put inside the ball under that logo. With that chip, fans can access player videos, competitions and other content just by bringing their mobile device close to the ball.

Adidas did not comment on whether the chip could be a vector for a Russian hack, reports Bloomberg. It also cannot be determined from the photos whether the chip might have been removed, replaced with actual spy gear, or whether the entire ball itself was fabricated for the event and only resembled the Adidas model in question.

“The security screening process that is done for all gifts was done for the soccer ball,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in an email to Bloomberg. “We are not going to comment further on security procedures.”