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Is It Time To Ditch The Cell Phone?


For those of you who are regular visitors to the Tin Hat Ranch you know I don’t stray off into current events or politics too often.  Every once and a while I notice something going on that I feel we can all learn from.  Today’s world lesson comes to us from the Ukraine.  As you are probably well aware protests against the government has become violent as of late with protesters hurling Molotov cocktails at police and troops.

Protesters hurl Molotov Cocktails At Police during a violent demonstration in the Ukraine

I am not here to comment on what is going on or who is right or wrong.  I haven’t paid close enough attention to the details to formulate a proper opinion.  My comments are strictly focused on a blurb I read about how protesters cell phones are being used to incriminate them.  On Tuesday, protesters received a mass text message indicating that their presence at the event “registered them as a participant of a mass disturbance”.  Now whether or not it will be used to prosecute them at a later point is not in the scope of this discussion, but with the world increasingly (including the US) moving from “innocent until proven guilty” to just plain “guilty” it raises an eyebrow.

With all of the talk about the NSA as of late storing vast amounts of metadata and civil liberties being eroded by the hour it is beginning to get downright scary .  Just by having a cell phone you are relinquishing a tremendous portion of your privacy.  By the simple nature in which cell phones work your every move is tracked.  How do you think your phone rings no matter where you are when someone calls?  Simply put your phone “registers” its ID with the nearest cell towers at all times.  This registration is stored on servers with the cellular companies.  When someone dials your number the location of your phone is looked up in this real time database and the tower  to which you are nearest is told to connect the call.  These records of your location are kept by the phone company and the NSA.

This instance of a government threatening its civilians through cell tracking is the first I’ve seen published. Although attorneys and prosecutors have used cell phone locating records for years to prove cases this is tracking is happening real time.  The information is used to prove a defendant guilty.  Contrast that with what is going on in the Ukraine,  the simple statement “YOU ARE A PARTICIPANT of a mass protest” is an accusation by the government to its citizens without proof.

As the lines begin to blur in regards to what is “legal” in this country I question if the benefits of carrying a cell phone are really worth it.  Are you a person that normally tries to maintain your privacy?  Did you bring a cell phone to the last (Name political organization that is currently out of favor with the administration) rally?  What’s to stop you from receiving an audit in the mail? Each day in the news new methods of using technology against the citizen are being uncovered.


On the flipside, the protesters are also utilizing cell phones to their advantage (as detailed by this article in Guerillaamerica.com) by tracking government movements.  They are using this information to coordinate their protests and calling in their rock chucking artillery.  Right or wrong, the use of their phones is doing nothing but helping to incriminate them.  Sure, some may argue that the pay as you go cell phones might be an answer to government tracking, but do you throw yours away after every phone call?

The reason I find this intriguing is that I am in the middle of the Tin Hat Ranch survival communication series.  I am looking at this story and seeing how all of this technology is being or can be used against the citizenry.  I am fascinated that the same methods that make for instant easy communications are also handing over complete control to authorities.  I then contrast this with the century old technology used by HAM’s .  Other than your call sign there is really no way to easily be targeted by current methods.  Someone has to be listening.  The technology is so arcane that to track a person would require infrastructure that doesn’t exist.  They would have to “manually” track you.  It is simple analog technology.  When you key up there is no record of your location being sent to the NSA.  The NSA isn’t recording what you are saying.  True, whatever you say is heard by anyone listening on the frequency.  It is also true that you could be tracked, but I beg to ask, who’s listening?  Probably nobody.   This is especially true if you are using relatively quiet frequencies in your area and even more so if you aren’t using public repeaters.  It’s just plain hiding in the open.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing anything wrong.  But darn it, if I ask my wife what she wants me to bring home from the grocery store that is none of the NSA’s business.

It is funny how looking to the past can solve some of our privacy problems.  If you are a HAM and spend most of your day somewhat close to home there is no need to carry around a cell phone.  YOU control the infrastructure at both ends.  A little pre-arranged frequency hopping or band switching can throw off most trying to listen in on your conversation.  Excuse me as I tighten the straps on my tinfoil hat…but then again this is the Tin Hat Ranch.


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