If you are thinking of attending a protest, take a few moments to review the EFF’s recommended strategies for protecting your digital assets and privacy in this blog post. It is both an interesting document and a sad testimonial to the state of our present day that the document had to be written at all.
Here is the issue: police are increasingly counting on protesters’ cell phones to be used as evidence, so information on them — your contacts, your photos, your text messages — can be used against you. And not just during protests, either: border crossings can be problematic too. So as the scouts say, be prepared.
The suggestions span the gamut from things to do before you attend a protest, what to do during the protest, and what to do if you are arrested and if your phone and other digital devices are seized. EFF recommends leaving your regular phone at home and buying a burner that just has the Signal messaging app on it; Signal provides end-to-end message encryption, something that I spent some time thinking about. I put together a series of recommendations for business IT managers about how to enable and use this feature across other messaging services for SiliconANGLE earlier this summer.
One of the aspects of Signal is that you can use it to scrub the metadata from your photos. This is important if you intend to post any of the pictures online. You can also take screenshots of your photos if you don’t care about image quality.
There are other helpful suggestions too, such as taking pictures without unlocking your phone, and disabling the facial or fingerprint ID feature, in case a law enforcement officer forces you to unlock it. They explain: “Under current U.S. law using a memorized passcode generally provides a stronger legal footing to push back against a court order of compelled device unlocking/decryption.” They explain the difference between encrypting the data on the phone and encrypting an external SD memory card might require two different steps. And there are numerous suggestions on how to turn off location tracking, Bluetooth, and other radios. That may only be a temporary solution, however: once you turn these radios back on, your phone may send the stored data once you reconnect. The best solution is to turn your phone off entirely.
Finally, they sum everything up with this piece of advice: “It’s important to carry the bare minimum of data with you, and use the strongest level of encryption, when going into a risky situation like a protest.”