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Leave Your Cellphone At Home, Says Jacob Appelbaum 306

Posted by timothy
from the as-you-well-know dept.
An anonymous reader writes "N+1 has an interview with Jacob Appelbaum (who is part of the Tor project) titled 'Leave Your Cellphone at Home.'" Jacob has a lot to say about privacy, data security, and surveillance. He ought to know. Among other things, he's had his email seized, been relieved of his phone, been the subject of a National Security Letter (video) and generally had his travel disrupted.
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Leave Your Cellphone At Home, Says Jacob Appelbaum

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  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@[ ]u.org ['bea' in gap]> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:00PM (#41224479)

    There, fixed that for ya. Amazing how they managed to get darned near 100% of the population to agree to carry around a tracking device with nary a peep. All it took was to be very careful to NOT talk about the tracking ability, keep news accounts of the police using the cell data off the front page and make the tracker shiny and useful enough. Do those things and not only will everyone carry one they will pay an average of $50/mo for the privledge. Land of the Free indeed.

    Won't be long now before they decide they have the hook set deep enough they can start making more overt use of the location/activity data without many people ditching their tracker.

    The carriers WILL start renting out access to track data for advertising purposes. They know where and when you are. They will be able to link that beyond your phone. Won't take much computation to get that localized enough to have a good idea which PC you use and then tie it to doubleclick and google's cookies. Then they know EVERYTHING. Combine a tracking cookie to hard billing quality identification data and the possibilities are truly limitless. Sure they COULD do that with Amazon but there is too great a chance of a user revolt. But people won't/can't give up their iShiny.

    What law enforcement will do with the data is so obvious and so dark there isn't much point in hammering it again really. Especially combined with security cameras everywhere. Who cares if the image quality isn't good enough for a positive id or you were wearing a hoodie. It gives a time/location and the tracker gives them who was at that spot in spacetime.

    Bust a drug dealer and you have probable cause to grab a trace on everyone who came in contact with that person for the last month. Crunch the numbers enough and lots of patterns emerge. Not quite precrime but close enough. You show up as having been in the room with a number of dealers and that will be your ass. Or be around a few people who later get busted for burgulary and how soon until that is cause for a search warrant on your place? Being able to effortlessly work backwards from a bust and turn up clues like that will change the law enforcement game entirely.

    And now you see why AT&T yanked all their payphones and for some reason simply refuses to compete in the landline business, even with billions and billions in sunk costs for all that wire going everywhere. Eliminate hardlines and everyone MUST buy a cell. It is already sorta odd to encounter someone who doesn't carry one, eventually it will be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Wouldn't suprise me if they become the preferred physical identifier, i.e. 'your papers.'

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by EnergyScholar (801915)

      Why was this last comment modded down, and by whom? It seems like a pretty good comment to me. Who, besides a forum spy [cryptome.org], would want to keep the above comment out of sight?

      • It's rated +5 at the moment. Ah, obviously the forum spies are using reverse psychology! Woooooooo!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      holy tinfoil
      • by Sez Zero (586611)

        holy tinfoil

        You get a tinfoil hat for free with your 4-digit slashdot uids.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        it's not tinfoil.
        the only thing keeping government tracking you with your cellular data is the government.

        but don't americans really understand that? don't you watch your own movies - aren't there high profile murder cases where cellid data is used? there's been several in Finland - the only thing keeping the abuse off is having few good cops. impossible to say what the secret("protection") police is up to though, but in general they don't fuck around with population in Finland(nobody really knows what the

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        holy tinfoil

        No tinfoil required.

        In Canada, we had this thing called "lawful access" which allowed the police to initiate a search and seizure without a warrant. Including tracking a person without a warrant if there were exigent circumstances. This was struck down by the supreme court. But that's not tinfoil is it?

        Hell, have you even bothered to look at some of the app updates recently for say google maps? Or some of the QR readers? That's just giving away info. Here let's take an example of the latest google map

    • Put your device into wifi mode, only use open access points and communicate over tor?

      More people should leave their access points open for the greater good. Or have one open and one closed for their personal use.

      Too bad that's not the case =p

    • by jonfr (888673)

      The problem is not technology. But governments how are happy to abuse it against it's citizens and others how travel across countries borders (U.S in this case. But this applies on a lot wider scale today). If you want to carry an mobile phone. Get the dumbest quad-band phone you can find. Or just use smart phone as dumb phone with nothing special in it (wipe it clean before crossing the border. Keep the backup encrypted on Google drive or Dropbox).

      There are options are out there. One of them is to have no

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Any mobile phone can be tracked, you don't need GPS capability. I turn off hte GPS but at times it is suprisingly accurate about knowing where I am with out it. The difference with smart phones is that this info is on the phone, with a dumb phone someone would have to query the carrier's data.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          GPS doesn't tell The Man where you are. GPS tells YOU where you are.

          If you want The Man to not be able to track you, turn off mobile voice and data. Cell tower triangulation is where it's at.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly so.

      Welcome to the fascist United Snakes of Amerika, Inkorporated, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the international bankster cabal. "1984" and "Brave New World" were supposed to be dire warnings of a possible alternative future, not an operations manual for the Powers That Be.

      We are tracked by our cell phones, our automobiles (OnStar) & license plate cameras, the public cloud of face recognition video surveillance cameras, UAV drones equipped with FLIR & Hellfire missiles, cancer-inducing naked

    • by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:06PM (#41225381)
      If you intend to commit a crime, leave your phone somewhere that will support your alibi. If you're going to frame someone, take theirs.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        If you're neither and are worried about tracking, just turn the phone off when not in use. You really don't need it on all the time. And turn off GPS for sure, that's just a waste of battery.

        • by nullchar (446050)
          Better take out the battery too! "Off" does not mean there is no power or infrequent connectivity.
    • by steelfood (895457)

      The experiment has ended. The result is failure. Several millenia of genetic selection cannot be undone in 200 short years.

    • by downhole (831621)

      Nice theory. Let's take a look at some practical examples, though. In all of the rebellions in the Arab Spring, involving actual totalitarian government being overthrown by force, my understanding is that cell phones have proved far more useful to the rebels for coordinating their activities than to the Government for tracking people.

      There are potential dangers from tracking and such, but I think they can be mostly mitigated with good tactics, and that the overall benefits outweigh the risks in most cases.

      • No, it cuts both ways. When I wrote and researched my book, The Dictator's Handbook, it was clear governments are able to make easy use of this data. There are numerous examples: governments planting trojans, tracking journalists, hacking email, sending out spear phish attacks, and worse. Rioters in Syria and Iran are frequently amazed when they are put in jail and their own email is read to them during the legal proceedings. Twitter is no better, and rogue governments create fake Facebook log-in pages

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:03PM (#41224527)

    If todays phones are nothing more than tracking devices for the government and anybody with the right tools to know where we are at all times, then why are we paying for this?

    I mean facebook is free and collects tons of information, yet we pay to use our phones and it collects our information the same way...

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:32PM (#41224909)

      if you pay for it, you think you have gotton value.

      if they gave it away for free, you'd think it was worthless.

      perceived value.

      just like sms is seen as having value when its just spare bytes that are always there on every packet, no matter what! costing nothing but they convince you that you need YET ANOTHER form of email and they gave it a cute next, texting.

      what a nice scam to be in on. if you're the unethical type, that is.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:06PM (#41225387)

      There could come a time very soon when NOT carrying a cellphone will be viewed as evidence of criminal activity in-and-of itself. Much like not carrying an ID can get you thrown in jail today, tomorrow's cops may well toss you into the clinker for not carrying a cellphone (i.e. tracking device).

    • by T Murphy (1054674)
      The worst is when I go to the store, and they make me pay for stuff! They're tracking my purchases, so why can't I just get the stuff for free?
    • Obviously the device is more to you than just a government tracker.

      After all, you wouldn't possess the phone if you thought it to be nothing but a tracker - unless you actually wanted the government to track you, I suppose.

  • by Antipater (2053064) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:09PM (#41224615)

    This isn't just with phones. Did you know that law enforcement agencies can see what you're doing when you're on the internet?? You should stop using the internet. But it's probably too late, anyway, because they've probably infected your computer with a program that monitors your every keystroke!

    And that's not all! Did you know there're identifying numbers on your car, too? Law enforcement can track you and indict you simply because of a number on the backside of your car! You should probably just leave your car at home.

    And don't even get me started about how unsecure your fingertips are.

    • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ADRA (37398) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:19PM (#41224751)

      Problem
      "And don't even get me started about how unsecure your fingertips are."

      Solution:
      Hot irons

      • by Hillgiant (916436)

        Nope.

        Scarred fingerprints set off even more alarm bells than normal ones. Plus the scar pattern is often uniquely identifiable. Better to be safe and chop the whole finger off.

        • Although tracking you by your stump-prints might be even easier! Better to be safe and chop the whole limb off.

        • You are just trying to trick into leaving an easily trackable trace of my blood rich in succelent DNA everywhere I go... granted not very far with me spurting blood from where once my fingers were but still, police could track me to my corpse!!!

      • by steelfood (895457)

        A really sharp knife or a pair of bolt cutters.

    • And that's not all! Did you know there're identifying numbers on your car, too? Law enforcement can track you and indict you simply because of a number on the backside of your car! You should probably just leave your car at home.

      Apparently so. [kansascity.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > Law enforcement can track you and indict you simply because of a number on the backside of your car! You should probably just leave your car at home.

      Yea, that is becoming a major nightmare. Until pervasive cameras it didn't matter much. The could put an APB on a plate number and still not have a very high success rate on the cops finding it. Now with cameras in every intersection that changes. They can get a big chunk of the same info collection that way that cell phone tracking gives them but it i

    • I'm sure law enforcement agencies who can see what you're doing when you're on the internet can see who accesses those shiny Tor gateways too.

    • And even if you leave your phone and car at home... law enforcement agents can still see what you're doing with their eyes! Better just board up all your windows and stay inside, get rid of the phone and internet, and have no contact with the outside world - because someone might SEE it.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:27PM (#41224847) Journal

    Keep your phone on you, powered down. Or powered up in airplane mode (cell, gps, wifi turned off) if the phone has it. (Advantage is that "airplane mode" is usually instant on.)

    This is assuming that you're carrying a phone that can be powered down. If not, I agree; leave it at home. Or get a different phone.

    • Keep your phone on you, powered down. Or powered up in airplane mode (cell, gps, wifi turned off) if the phone has it.

      That would make cell-phones nearly useless. Nobody could reach you quickly. Imagine if everyone you wanted to reach quickly also did this.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Leave a message. (Remember those?) Check your messages at appropriate times. You're still better connected than the time before cell phones.

        My conversations with my teenage daughter are almost entirely via text. She's more comfortable with that than with phone calls, as you can check for and respond to texts when you're not doing something else (like driving), whereas phone calls are more immediate -- they don't work unless both parties are in an environment where they're able to give the conversation t

    • by Whorhay (1319089)

      I don't carry a cell phone anymore because it'd be completely useless to me for at least 95% of the time. If I did resume carrying one though I think I'd like to devise a faraday cage type case for it to reside in while not in use.

  • by sgt_doom (655561) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:33PM (#41224933)
    And please let us not forget one of the overriding stories against free speech and transparency:

    http://www.nnn.se/nordic/assange/suspicious.pdf [www.nnn.se]

    http://www.whale.to/b/gelbspan_b.html [whale.to]

    And blessings on Jacob for everything he's done and is still doing.
  • Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:37PM (#41225013)

    Anyone who thinks leaving a cell phone at home, powered off, or in airplane mode is an option obviously doesn't have a wife.

    • by iONiUM (530420)

      Or.. anyone, at all. Many of the suggestions on Slashdot about avoiding privacy invasions would only be possible if you were a hermit, living in the basement, and having no contact with society.

      • ...would only be possible if you were a hermit, living in the basement, and having no contact with society.

        All the time we get "Why the hell is this posted on slashdot?" Here, it seems, is an article aimed directly at the core demographic.

        • by iONiUM (530420)

          Yea, because the core demographic is going to not take their cellphone travelling....

          The warning might be correct, but the solution is not reasonably possible for most "normal" people.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jmorris42 (1458) *

        You do realize that for all of human history up until the late 1990's most of the world lived perfectly happy, fulfilled lives without a cell phone, right? You really don't need to be connected to everyone else all of the time. Try silencing the damned thing once in a while and connect with the meatsacks around you at the moment.

        > living in the basement, and having no contact with society.

        Just the opposite, depending on all this tech too much is what makes you a virtual hermit with no real contact wit

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          You do realize that for all of human history up until the late 1990's most of the world lived perfectly happy, fulfilled lives without a cell phone, right? You really don't need to be connected to everyone else all of the time. Try silencing the damned thing once in a while and connect with the meatsacks around you at the moment.

          Amazingly enough, people get very angry when you suggest that - try separating a kid from their cellphone, and you'll get angry calls from their parents about that very aspect ("but

        • Re:Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @03:21PM (#41226355)
          Did you know that in Victorian Cambridge and London (that I know about for sure) there were several mail collections and deliveries PER DAY, and if even a typical 4 hour turnaround wasn't fast enough there were messenger boys. Australian businessmen paid for underwater cable to allow the late Victorian equivalent of high frequency trading in the futures market of the day (wool, for instance). The Roman Empire depended on a network of staged horses and fast riders, so that in an emergency a message could get from Londinium to Aquae Sulis in a couple of days, when a cart would take a week. People have always wanted to communicate as fast as technology would allow, and there have always been people who would pay a premium for it.

          Now it has been democratised. Indian peasants can use a mobile phone to find the market offering the best price for their produce. Nepalese herders can decide the best time to bring their goats to market. For a lot of people who don't live in the US, the cellular phone is literally transforming their lives. You can only take the attitude you do because you live in a rich society and are insulated from the factors that have held most people in the world back economically. One of those factors is lack of access to fast, reliable communications.

      • ...and it didn't work out so well for him in the long run.

      • by downhole (831621)

        The funny thing is that, if you are a hermit with no contact with society, then Government agencies are very unlikely to care where you are or what you're up to anyways, since nobody else does. The people they want to know all about are the ones who are actively influencing opinion against whatever the Government is trying to do.

    • Welcome to Slashdot.

  • The whole point of a cell phone is to, oh, i don't know, be a cell phone?
    If you're only going to use it at home, get a land line. They're cheaper.

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