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[liberationtech] Cell phone tracking

Nathan of Guardian nathan at
Sun Jun 2 19:16:20 PDT 2013

On 05/31/2013 08:57 PM, Seth David Schoen wrote:
> That seems to have some clear potential privacy and security benefits,
> but if you use a MiFi with a 3G account registered in your own name,
> the carrier will still be able to track the location of the MiFi
> device itself and associate it with your identity.
For a number of months in late 2010, I tried a personal experiment. I
used a wifi-only phablet (the Galaxy Player 4-5" Wifi mini tablet) and
set it up with a variety of ways to make plain old telephone calls over
wifi. My goal was not to be anonymous, but to just not allow the mobile
operator's to have a comprehensive record of my physical location.  In
my daily commute (Brooklyn to Manhattan, with a subway ride in between),
I began to figure out where various free, open or easily registered wifi
hotspots were located. My morning coffee spot had wifi with a password
they happily gave out (that also worked from outside their window). The
house on the corner near the subway entrance had an open hotspot.
Madison Square Park had a community wifi node with easy "accept"
registration, that worked pretty well, too.

All in all, it meant that I was never really offline for that long. If
anyone had called or texted me in my short downtime, I could receive the
notification of that, and call them back, usually within 15 minutes. By
having a phone-type form factor device setup to work essentially like a
phone, I was able to stand on the street, make calls, and do my
business, without looking out of the ordinary. Since many of the
VoIP/messaging services I was using were good at handling on/offline
queuing, I could easily respond to a text message, knowing it would be
sent when I walked by the next hotspot.

Save for a few crackly, unintelligible calls now and then, it was a
pretty successful experiment, and a way of life I am considering
returning to. To be completely honest, in case of emergency or an
absolute need to be reached, I had a cash-only burner phone always with
me. I also had a mifi device, registered to my name. On some occasions,
I did need to use this, but in the end, the small geo footprint left
from the use of these, was miniscule to what it would have been if I had
been using them full-time, instead of my wifi solution.

In summary, if the focused threat you need to address is location
tracking by carriers/operators, and you live in an area with a decent
saturation of "open" wifi hotspots, I feel there is something you can do
about it. Now your adversaries have to work a bit harder (tracking IPs
to hotspots, physical surveillance, etc) to build a geo map of your
comings and goings.


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