It would make for a great James Bond plot, but the technology has not yet caught up to Kellyanne Conway’s impression that a microwave oven can be hacked for government surveillance.
In an interview with Bergen Record columnist Mike Kelly Sunday, the senior adviser to President Trump discussed surveillance techniques disclosed by WikiLeaks. On the list of these smart devices manipulated for spying, Conway included “microwaves that turn into cameras,” before adding, “We know this is a fact of modern life.”
Despite the unease over smart appliances, microwaves can’t be manipulated in that manner. Here’s why:
The appliance uses a magnetron to convert electric energy into microwave radiation that vibrates molecules to heat up food. In order to capture an image, a camera uses a lens that opens to expose its sensor to light. Microwaves have neither a lens nor a sensor. As Engadget reports, microwaves aren’t among the new trend of Internet-connected appliances either.
It’s possible that Conway was referencing a 2015 study from MIT exploring the imaging potential for microwaves—the electromagnetic waves, not the appliance—to see through walls. This application, however, requires specialized equipment and still needs a sensor.
See how that technology works in the video below.