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Secure your phone before attending a peaceful protest

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Secure your phone before attending a peaceful protest


Protect your digital security

People are taking to the streets to organize for justice and peaceful protest against systemic racism and police brutality. If you’re attending or even just watching the protests, then be aware: not only is your phone a trove of information about you and the people you communicate with, it also functions as a tracking device. That’s why it’s important to keep your digital footprint as small as possible — any evidence placing people at protests could be enough to get them arrested.

You should account for the fact that your phone may get lost, stolen, or broken. There’s also a risk of your phone being confiscated by authorities — which means that if they’re able to unlock your phone, they’ll have access to data on you and people you know. It could give authorities access to information about what is being organized and who is doing the organizing, and might even give them the information necessary to shut down or prevent protests and arrest those involved.

Your Digital Footprint Matter – Try To keep it small

In other words, it never hurts to prepare for the worst, especially considering recent events. The steps we’ve listed here are a basic start toward protecting your privacy before you attend a protest, but there are additional precautions you can take. Circumstances and situations vary and none of these methods are 100 percent foolproof, but they do offer increased security for you and your info.

Data security is an ongoing issue, and we’re still learning the ways in which information is collected and sold, what kinds are gathered, who gets access to them, and what can be learned from them. While the following strategies are important if you’re participating in a protest, they are also useful if you want to be careful in your everyday technology use.

Here are some strategies you should consider:

Leave Your Phone Home

There’s only one sure-fire way to guarantee your cell phone won’t be used to spy on you: Leave it at home.

The only problem with this plan is . . . you won’t have a phone, for communication or for taking pictures and video.

An alternative is to buy a “burner” phone just for this or similar occasions. This may seem sort of extreme for someone who’s just attending a peaceful demonstration, but these phones sell at convenience stores for as little as $10. 

Be sure to use a prepaid phone plan—plugging in your personal SIM card would tie the device to your cell carrier, defeating the purpose. Paying with cash adds even more security, as a credit card could tie the device back to you. Is that an extreme step? Maybe, but it's an easy way to add more anonymity.

Use a Secure Messaging App

Some police departments have used cell site simulators, which include devices such as IMSI catchers, or "Stingrays," during past protests. The equipment can mimic a cell tower to intercept calls, identify your specific phone, see who you’re messaging with, and sometimes access the contents of messages. (An IMSI is a unique identifier associated with your phone's SIM card; it's one of the pieces of data these devices can pick up.)

The best way to protect your messages is to use an app that employs end-to-end encryption, which prevents a message from being read by anyone but the sender and the recipient. Some apps also have end-to-end encryption for calling and video chat as well.

Apple’s iMessage uses end-to-end encryption by default, but only when you’re talking to other iPhone users. If your friend has an Android, iMessage sends data over an insecure SMS text. Other apps that use end-to-end encryption include Wire and Facebook’s WhatsApp. 

However, privacy and security experts typically recommend Signal, which has very strong privacy measures in place, and is maintained by a nonprofit foundation.

“Signal is the gold standard, but it’s not foolproof. No matter how good your security is, you have to worry about the security of the person on the other end,” says Witness's Kayyali.

One way to address this in Signal is to set messages to disappear shortly after they’re read. This will protect you if the person you’re messaging with loses their phone. 

In Signal: Select a conversation, tap the menu icon in the top right corner, and select “Disappearing messages.” Then, select how long you want your messages to be visible before they're deleted. 

Make Your Phone Harder to Unlock

It’s a good idea to change the settings on your phone so that you can’t unlock it using your fingerprint or facial recognition. These methods make it easier for someone else to get into your phone, especially if you’re there, and law enforcement can legally force people to unlock their phones using their fingerprint or facial recognition. Instead, use a passcode, PIN, or password, which are protected under the Fifth Amendment in the USA.

Adjust your settings so that you can’t see message content in notifications when your phone is locked. At the protest, try not to unlock your phone unless you absolutely have to. If you are taking photos and videos, try to access your camera without unlocking your phone. (On an Android phone, this varies depending on your model; for example, on a Pixel, you just press the Power key twice. On an iPhone, you can open the camera from the lock screen by long pressing on the camera icon in the lower right corner or swiping to the side of your lock screen.)

If your phone is unlocked, an officer might access your contacts, photos you’ve taken, things you’ve posted on social media, and other information. That same information is vulnerable if your phone has a very obvious passcode.

On an iPhone
Settings > Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID and Passcode on older devices). Toggle off facial recognition or fingerprint scanning for unlocking your phone.

Next, scroll down to Change Passcode if you need to create a stronger PIN. 

On the same screen, you can control which items can be accessed from a locked screen, including personal information such as calendar items and missed calls.

To set an auto-lock timer: Settings > Display & Brightness > Auto-Lock. The shortest interval is 30 seconds—choose that one.

Be careful with this one. To have the phone self-destruct after too many failed log-in attempts: Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Erase Data. Toggle that on, and all data will be erased after 10 failed login attempts. (Make sure to back up your phone first.)

On an Android Phone
Settings > Security > Face unlock. Under "Use face unlock for," turn off “Unlocking your phone.” From your security settings page, you can also disable fingerprint scanning or delete saved fingerprints, depending on what kind of phone you're using.

In the Security tab, tap the gear icon next to “Screen Lock” and switch the toggle to make your phone lock automatically when you hit the power button. Tap the Screen lock menu if you want to change to a stronger passcode.

To set an auto-lock timer: Settings > Display > Advanced > Screen timeout. Tap “Lock screen display” to keep sensitive notifications from appearing on the lock screen.

On older Android phones, look for options to encrypt your phone under Security settings. Encrypting your phone may take a while; it’s best to take care of this in advance.

Encrypt Your Devices 

It’s always a good practice to encrypt your personal information, but in the event that your phone is confiscated, stolen, or lost, you don’t want any information linking you or others to the protests to fall into the hands of authorities (or anyone else). So, if you haven’t done so already, now’s a good time to secure your device and any information on it.

It’s a quick and easy process. If you have an Android phone, go to “Settings” > “Security & location” > “Advanced” > “Encryption & credentials” > “Encrypt phone.”

For an iPhone, as long as you’ve set a passcode up, and you see the text “Data protection is enabled” at the bottom of the “Touch ID & Passcode” page, your information is secure.

Turn Off GPS, WiFi, and Bluetooth

You probably know your phone's GPS or Location Services features can help app makers and other companies track your movements. But Bluetooth and WiFi signals can track your location as well—private companies do it all the time to collect and share consumer information for advertising.

If you’re not using those features on your phone, switching off Bluetooth, WiFi, and Location services can help preserve your privacy—at a protest, or any time.

Some phones may switch Bluetooth, WiFi and other settings back on automatically after a time, a feature intended to help keep your phone connected to your other devices. You may want to check periodically if you’re keeping your phone on during a demonstration.

On an iPhone
Open settings, then toggle off WiFi and Bluetooth. Scroll down to Privacy > Location Services. Toggle it off to stop GPS and some related location-tracking technologies.

On an Android phone
Scroll down from the home screen to the buttons for WiFi, Bluetooth, and location. (This may vary slightly by phone model.)

Turn the Phone Off or Use Airplane Mode

Your phone actually gives off a lot of information about you, including where you’ve been. And not only can those signals be intercepted; they can be used to locate you and connect you to others. So, while you’re at a demonstration, you’ll want your phone to communicate as little information about you as possible.

Keep your phone off or on airplane mode, which turns off cellular data, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. This stops cell carriers from knowing where you are based on what cell towers you connected to. This will also protect against any stingray attacks, which is when a device pretends to be a cell tower and collects data, including location, from phones around it. Police have been accused of using stingrays, or cell-site simulators, to collect information about phones.

Airplane mode does not disable location services, so you’ll have to switch that off separately. If airplane mode interferes with your activities, then switch off cellular data, Bluetooth, location services, and Wi-Fi individually, and only switch on what you need.

“As long as your phone is talking to a cell phone tower, there’s a metadata footprint that can be collected,” says the ACLU’s Gillmor. “When is your phone talking to a cell phone tower? Basically, whenever it’s on.”

One foolproof solution is to turn the phone off. Of course, do that and you’ll have to wait for it to power on if you want to make a call, take pictures, or shoot a video.

Another option is to use Airplane mode. "But even with Airplane mode, your phone may still be trackable," says Dia Kayyali, program manager for technology and advocacy at Witness, a nonprofit that helps people use video and technology to protect human rights. Airplane Mode should stop the phone from communicating with cell phone towers, but what the setting actually does varies by phone maker, and some devices may still communicate over Bluetooth or WiFi.

On an iPhone or Android phone: Swipe to access the menu which has the Airplane mode button. You can also open Settings. (On some Android phones, that's the only option.)

Take A Photo Or Video

Try not to take any photos or videos with identifying information about others without their consent. Be mindful of objects in the photos such as street signs and landmarks that may give away location, if that’s something you’d want to hide. Afterward, blur out other demonstrators and scrub the photos of any metadata.

When your Device is confiscate

In the USA, don’t unlock it if at all possible. (As previously mentioned, your Fifth Amendment rights are covered if it’s locked using a PIN or password, but not if you can unlock it with a fingerprint or face image.) You should always ask for a lawyer.

In UK, The police at times can use tactics in order to obtain the PIN number or password from a suspect, either by threatening to hold the mobile phone for longer than necessary, or by incorrectly warning the suspect that a direct refusal will result in further offences being committed. You should always ask for a solicitor or barrister.

It is only once the police office have applied and obtained a court order, under section 49 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (commonly known as a RIPA notice), that refusal to provide such information becomes a criminal offence.

Section 49 enables the police, or other authorised law enforcement, security or intelligence agency, to serve a notice on a suspect requiring the disclosure of the PIN or password. Once served it becomes a separate criminal offence to refuse to provide the information under Section 53 of RIPA. The maximum sentence for committing this offence is 5 years custody in national security cases and 2 years custody in all other cases.

As soon as possible:

Sign out of all-important accounts. Any place you’re logged in will have session cookies set somewhere, and an adversary could potentially resume your session if they've copied these cookies from your device. By logging out, you signal to the service that the session has ended.

Refresh your device. At this point, you should either factory reset your phone, or get a completely new one. While it's unrealistic for most people to buy a brand new phone unexpectedly, it's also worth noting that every phone has a hardware ID which cannot be changed, even if you wipe the device and start from a fresh slate.

Rotate all credentials for services you use. On another, trusted computer, reset each account with brand-new, complex passphrases. If you've enabled two-factor authentication on a particular service, the credentials will also have to be reset. Instructions depend on the service, but nearly all services offering two-factor authentication will also provide tools to reset these codes.

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Well if I'm going to show my A$$ then I will not have my phone or any Electronics on me

I tell all Plutonians to leave all when we Protest Uranus :cursing:

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