Department of Homeland Security officials are looking into whether cell phones could be modified to alert emergency responders to chemical, biological or radiological agents in the air following a possible future terror attack, according to a news report.

"If it's successful, it'll change the way chemical, biological and radiation detection is done," said Rolf Dietrich, deputy director of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, which helps develop high-tech anti-terror solutions.

It's difficult to place sensors that would detect possible hazards everywhere that they would be needed, and Dietrich said that if the idea is to have ubiquitous detection, cell phones would be ideal.

"There's nothing quite as ubiquitous as a cell phone," Dietrich told USA Today.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates are wary of turning consumer electronics into government surveillance devices, but Dietrich stressed that any such program would be voluntary.

"Not all people would want to play in this game," he said.

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