The importance of protecting your privacy at protests

What should peaceful protesters know about their privacy before heading to a demonstration? Here are some concerns and protective measures they should keep in mind.

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Be aware of your surroundings.
Photo: TWJ
Staying protected while expressing your voice.

STARTING POINT: YOUR PHONE

Protests are set to continue in the back half of 2022, with many in the freedom movement turning their attention to the next phases of the Great Reset, including inflation, food shortages, social credit and more.

If you are looking to head out and protect your privacy, this piece offers some tips on how you can do so.

The first thing you should be aware of is that smartphones are constantly collecting and transmitting data about you, and it is best to incorporate safe practices into your routine when attending a protest.

A 2018 ABC investigation revealed that a journalist’s phone shared information with an online server nearly 300,000 times during a single week. 

If you do take your phone to a protest, there are two ways it can be used to get information on you.

There’s the passive collection of data, which is information your phone sends out as part of its normal use.

Many apps will collect data, such as your location, that it doesn’t need for its normal service to sell as part of its business model, Sadowski said.

In November of last year, Roy Morgan released mobile phone location data that showed where Melbourne freedom protesters lived on a map after a rally outside Parliament House.

TOTT News also reported on how counter-intelligence operations had infiltrated online Telegram chats and were suppressing protests in areas before groups had gathered together.

Much of the data is collected by big tech and telecommunication companies which have enormous amounts of information on large swathes of the population.

In Australia, telcos are obliged to keep two years of metadata, which can be accessed by an increasing number of government agencies.

Even encrypted messages can potentially be accessed by authorities via Australia’s anti-encryption legislation or accounts taken over under the still relatively new Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Act 2021.

Every time you ping off a cell tower, that’s a data point about your location, and you can triangulate that to a pretty precise location. There are many ways for law enforcement to get access to that data.

Then there’s active smartphone surveillance, which is when devices are used to actively pick up mobile phone signals that can be used to trace or identify people.

The easiest way to stop this surveillance is to leave your phone at home.

Or, as many people need their phones, other options include using a Faraday bag (a pouch that blocks radio signals), leaving it switched off or on airplane mode, or ensuring that Bluetooth functions are disabled. 

These simple steps of protection could be the most important you do when attending a protest.

But attendees should also be wary of external factors that are not inside of their range, such as city systems.

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FACIAL RECOGNITION EVERYWHERE

Another way of tracking protesters is by using their faces.

Facial recognition technology that allows the rapid identification of someone from an image or video is an emerging form of mass surveillance and tracking.

There are multiple facial recognition products that allow users to scan faces against enormous databases of stored faces to find matches. Systems that have slowly developed over the last two decades:

This includes a significant increase in the use of biometric systems in Australia, including in CBD districtsairportsschoolspublic transportsupermarkets and more.

Police in Melbourne, for example, already have been using CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities across the CBD for some time, so does public transport in Queensland and Sydney.

Darwin’s ‘smart CCTV’ network has been criticised, while Perth has ongoing surveillance across the city.

Some systems, like PimEyes, are available to consumers, whereas others, such as Clearview AI, have been trialled by police across the world and have raised concerns.

Digital Rights Watch says the use of facial recognition technology threatens the privacy of a free society.

Because there is very rarely any reason to warrant unwanted surveillance if you are in public, it is advised you try to obscure your face as much as possible. Especially for the marches.

Wear a hat, sunglasses, and even try other options. Imagine if everyone wore a Mark Zuckerberg mask?

The People’s Revolution has face painting activities for children at Brisbane events, for example. This is a good way to protect your little ones, and perhaps adults may consider a design for the day.

Wearing plain clothing outside of your normal attire and covering tattoos are also effective measures.

By shielding your signals and by covering yourself as much as possible, both by look and inside the larger crowds on the day, you are doing the best you can to protect from the prying eyes of Big Brother.

But it isn’t just the physical realm that is important, either.

Online protection can also help reduce your footprint shown to authorities.

Authorities that are increasingly looking to squash protests at any means they can.

DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS

There are a number of other ways that you leave digital traces that you might leave when attending a protest.

Photos and videos can help identify individuals after the fact.

These files often contain metadata that will provide information about when and where it was captured.

Also, details captured in the footage may help track down other protesters. The account of Victoria Police was seen watching one livestream during lockdown periods, where many people were being interviewed randomly.

Be careful about sharing footage to social media, and to consider stripping data if you choose to and taking steps to conceal the identity of anyone captured in the footage unless they’ve also consented.

Try to use distortion tactics to prevent law enforcement systems identifying the people in the shot.

We also suggested using encrypted messaging services, such as Signal, to contact others if you must.  

Even though Australia has undermined encrypted forms of messaging, you might as well make it harder.

How you get to and from a protest is also subject to tracking.

Automatic number plate recognition technology can be used to monitor vehicles, and has been used by police to track people’s movements during NSW’s lockdown measures.

Compulsory microchips for new QLD number plates was introduced in June 2020.

Similarly, using a transport card such as a Myki/Go Card/Opal Card leaves a digital footprint.

Be wary if you are catching public transport to protests. Police were able to track Melbourne tradie protests by waiting at train stations and searching buses late in the afternoons after proceedings had ended. 

Activists and civil society organisations have traditionally always been at a greater risk of surveillance.

It serves everyone to be mindful of their privacy while protesting. 


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4 comments on “The importance of protecting your privacy at protests”

  1. Good one, Ethan. I’m glad you sent this before next Saturday’s Adelaide freedom rally, where I will probably be speaking. It will provide me with another opportunity to rip into cowardly doctors still jabbing the quax poison into hapless Australians, along with their criminal, pHARMa-owned “regulatory” bodies, et al. Even though (as you know) I don’t have a “smart” phone, it looks like I’d better leave the old Nokia at home. No problem with covering up…it will probably be bloody cold here on Saturday.

    Forget Zuckerberg (“Sugar mountain”), I’m going in a Tony Fauci mask. Tony’s been on my mind lately (see the link to “Fauci on the farm” below), so he may as well be on my face as well. At least the Adelaide City Council will recognise HIM…I doubt if they would know ME from a bar of soap (or a squirt of poisonous hand sanitiser).

    No sweat about tatts, haven’t got any, although (as per the above) I’m thinking of getting one on my backside of Tony, Bill Gates and “The Black Pope” (their Jesuit controller), because that’s an image I just can’t get out of my brain, so it may as well be installed in an appropriate place on my body as well.

    My placard on Saturday will read: PFIZER WARNS FOURTH BOOSTER NEEDED FOR THOSE STILL NOT DEAD

    Seriously, thank you for your useful advice.

    “Fauci on the farm”: https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/P5PHC81VLxizlLOvhnI966?domain=rex.freedomadelaide.com

  2. Turn off your location on phones too, at all times if you can. Only turn it on if you need it.

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