In every democratic country, any citizen can take to the streets to protest against things they do not agree with. Honestly, we see myriads of demonstrations in various countries almost every day. Let’s just recall a few of them: the George Floyd protests against police brutality and racism, 2020; protests against a possible law that could terminate pregnancies, 2022, etc. The reasons might be quite different. So it doesn’t matter what demonstrations you attend, watch them online, or get informed about, you have to be sure your phone is secure because no one knows how this information can be used.
We mean if you are a protest participant, likely, you communicate with others. So if someone accesses data on your phone, they can learn about what you organize, who participates, when you are going to act, etc. As for the police, this will also be enough to arrest you. This doesn’t mean you should do anything illegal. But we respect everyone’s rights and anyone’s personal data and information should be protected. However, no one will do it instead of you.
Further reading: How To Secure Your Account With Google Authenticator Or Authy
Generally, we are going to review the article published by The Verge a couple of years ago, in which the media describes various methods on how to protect your data. So if you even do not participate in any demonstration, you still need to make your device and the information stored in it secure.
The best suggestion is to leave your phone home
Your phone knows everything about you. Wherever you go, what pages you visit, what you search for, what you talk about, and information about many other activities is stored on your phone. The best advice we can give is to leave your phone home when attending a demonstration. We know that you will complain saying what if you need to call someone. For all those cases, you can just buy a burner phone instead. So you can turn it on only when you’re at the site of the demonstration.
Use more secure apps
All popular apps such as Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, and others collect a lot of data about you. So we recommend you download and use more secure, encrypted apps for communication. If you are unaware of what apps are more secure than others, The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of recommended tools to keep your phone secure.
For instance, you can use Signal, which is a secure, open-source, end-to-end encrypted messaging app. Its biggest advantage is that the app doesn’t store message metadata. You can go further, and make some adjustments in privacy settings. Say, you can set up a PIN or use call relays. What we like more is the disappearing message feature. As the name implies, any message you send/get will disappear after a specific time limit.
We also recommend using a more secure browser than Chrome. The best option is Tor. It is capable of protecting your identity and information by bouncing your activity through a set of relays. Of course, Brave is a secure browser as well.
When searching for something, it’s better to use DuckDuckGo, which will not store your search history or connect it to your IP address.
Encrypt information in your phone
For this goal, you have to head to Settings > Security> Advanced settings > Encryption & credentials > Encrypt phone. This is the path to the corresponding page on an Android device. But as you guess, it might vary a little depending on the manufacturer.
As for the iPhone users, if you have set a passcode, there is the text “Data protection is enabled” at the bottom of the Face ID/Touch ID & Passcode page.
Just switch to airplane mode
In this mode, your phone will disable the cellular data and Wi-Fi by default. In other words, operators will not know where you are.
However, you should know that airplane mode doesn’t turn off location services. So you have to disable them all manually.
Use a VPN
When going to a demonstration, it’s always recommended to set up a VPN on your phone. It will hide your activity by encrypting your connection. However, keep in mind that more reliable VPNs charge a subscription fee.
How to act if your phone is confiscated
If you are arrested and/or your phone is confiscated, do not unlock it if possible. But law enforcement can legally force you to unlock the phone if it’s protected by a fingerprint or facial recognition. To avoid such situations, use passwords or PINs. As your Fifth Amendment rights are covered if it’s locked using a PIN or password, you can refuse to unlock the phone.
In Settings, make adjustments so that the phone doesn’t display message content in notifications when your phone is locked.