Phones and privacy at the camp for climate action.

Traditionally it has been the content of communication that has been the focus of government surveillance but the police are increasingly interested in data mining techniques to uncover patterns of association. Simple data, when stored, aggregated and analyzed using sophisticated computer algorithms, contains far more information than is commonly appreciated. Collating mobile phone numbers, and the data retained by network providers, can provide the police with a powerful incite into our networks of associations. This is not only an invasion of our privacy but may also threaten our ability to work together effectively.

At least years climate camp the police were taking people phone from them during stop and search. As well as browsing through people
phonebooks and text messages, they were typing *#06# to get the phones unique serial number (IMEI). They would then look up the registered owner of phone then threaten the holder of the phone with being arrested on suspicion of theft if they refused to prove that they were the owner of the phone by revealing their identity.

To reduce the ability of the police to steal our identities and learn
more about our social networks, please consider the following advice.

Mobile phones are useful tools for communicating and organising - we do not advise you to leave them at home. You will find them essential for staying informed and informing others. However...

Copy the entries in your phonebook and leave it at home.

Delete from your phonebook all but the numbers that will be essential during the week.

Rename those contacts to remove surnames, perhaps using code names instead.

Erase your sent and received call logs and text messages and do repeat this regularly.

Make use of the security features of your phone so that a PIN code is required to access any of its features.

There are generally two types of security on mobile phones, the PIN that protects the phone and PIN2 that protects the SIM card so it can't be used in another phone without the code. It may be a little inconvenient to have to type in the number each time but it's better than allowing the cops to browse through your phone book, call logs and messages.

If you can't set your phone to require a PIN code each time it is used, simply switch off your phone when it looks like a police stop and search is likely.


Might be worth noting about mobiles:

* That the police are also able to retrieve phone calls and sent text messages, both from the phone and the SIM. Once deleted off the phone they are NOT gone for good. If you have made a foolish phone call or sent something dodgy, and you are at risk from having your phone taken, get a whole new phone and SIM card.

* Police can use your mobile as a tracking device of your whereabouts, this evidence has already been used in cases - especially if making a call. This pinpoints your exact location. So don't take it anywhere you'd rather the cops didn't know about. Disconnecting the phone by taking out the battery apparently can stop this as the phone is no longer connected to any electrical source.

* Police can bug a mobile and use it as a listening device... if you are saying something you don't want the cops to hear, and you want to be extra paranoid, remove the battery from your phone or leave it elsewhere. Turning it off will not necessarily work!

* If the cops ever get your phone and give it back to you... give it to someone else not involved in anything you are, donate it to charity or burn it. Do not ever use it again!


Your advice about having an alternative SIM is OK if police are searching the physical phone for text messages. However if you are concerned about surveillance involving your mobile phone company, you should be aware that text messages (and phone calls too I would think) send a SIM ID *and* the phone IMEI. On that basis, sending a message using your contract phone but a PAYG SIM will still be easily traceable to you.

The best approach is to buy a PAYG phone with cash and only top it up with vouchers bought with cash, and use that alongside your regular phone. However you can't get away from the fact that it is still a location-tracking device. If you have special need to be careful - and that's a personal judgement - only put the battery in when you are away from your house to collect messages or to make calls. That said if you live in a highly populated area - such as flats in a city - then you have less reason to worry - the location tracking is not very sensitive AFAIK and it's a right royal pain for the authorities to get the data. If you're a Climate Camp activist and not part of a terrorist cell then it's probably too much hassle for them.

It should be obvious but also be careful when sending personally-identifiable information in text messages - telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses, account numbers etc. In theory the same goes for voice content as software now can transcribe voice content quite reliably - however this often can't be avoided and the best thing to do is not to worry about it too much. Remember: our worrying is what some upper echelons of the police want!

Ultimately for the activist there is a anti-surveillance/convenience trade-off. Don't get paranoid as this makes you less effective in your chosen field. Be careful but, unless you are doing activism that is targetted for the harshest oppression, tolerate a bit of surveillance rather than re-organising your habits completely to avoid it.



If you can, bring a new PAYG phone, don't fill it with your friends numbers, don't use it from home and don't call your mum on it.

Don't ever put your normal SIM in your new phone or your new SIM in your normal phone.
Use the phone at the climate camp to:
keep the legal team informed about arrests and stop & searches
keep the media team informed about protests and actions
keep yourself informed about things going on around camp and beyond
call for help in a medical emergency