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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Can you shield your cell phone from Uncle?

A short while ago, I published a post which discussed the only sure way of disabling GPS in your cell phone: Taking out the battery. Why, I asked, can't we make that task easier by installing an on/off switch?

One reader -- call him B -- sent in his thoughts. The words below the asterisks are his:

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Hi there Joe,

You wrote...
The easy fix: Why don't we ask our representatives to force cell phone manufacturers to provide a switch that turns off the freakin' GPS? (And why don't citizens of other countries ask their governments to do this?)

The GPS should be there only when we want it. Going hiking? Turn it on. Need directions? Turn it on. Meeting your lover or pot dealer? Turn it off.

Of course, I'm talking about gummint regulation of industry, so this is not a solution that libertarians will like. See? Unfettered libertarianism will actually take away your freedom.
Naturally I share your feelings about this. Definitely let us give spirited throat to calls for our elected representatives to rectify this hi-tech iniquity.

But in the meantime, while we all politely wait for those august statesmen in the Capitol to get around to pretending to grapple with this matter, here’s a possible low-tech way you can make your cellphone completely undetectable to GPS snooping whenever you wish. It won’t harm your phone, it’s instantaneously reversible, you don’t need a shred of electronics knowhow, and it requires little if anything in the way of parting with the elusive spondulix.

Now, being the lazy but honest bum that I am, I feel at this point obliged to tell you that I haven’t dragged my ass out to go and actually test this method on a cellphone for myself. So even though I’m fully confident it will perform exactly as predicted and block the full spectrum of ordinary EMF and microwave radiation from either entering or leaving your phone, as a semi-devout empiricist, I must acknowledge that I can’t in good conscience absolutely, positively,100% swear to having personally witnessed its effectiveness.

But, I do know from firsthand experience that the exact same method works like gang-busters with walkie-talkies and CB radios. However, cellphones employ microwaves, which are much much smaller and far more tightly packed than radio frequencies, so just bear in mind that EMF shielding against microwave radiation has to be really “water-tight” so to speak, otherwise they’ll be leakage and you’ll have accomplished nothing.

Transporting your cell in a small metal case, like one of those old hinged flip-top, aluminum cigarette cases some guys back in the day used to like, would thoroughly block all microwave reception and transmission, including GPS tracking. Something comparable in size to an extra-large metal Band-Aid box would do the trick. But a nice looking, well-constructed, light-weight metal case could be a real pain to find and just as inconvenient to cart around.

Here’s one possibility I turned up.

On the other hand, you could cover a fabric cellphone pouch with panels of a fine copper or aluminum mesh, that you or one of your minions carefully cut out and tack-stitch in place by hand, taking pains to make sure the mesh covers the entire pouch and completely envelops the whole phone. Diligently modified in this manner, the pouch now acts as a Faraday-cage. When the phone is in the cage, which is to say inside the pouch, it will totally cut your phone off from receiving any and all incoming signals, including things like an urgent overseas call informing you that you’ve won the Irish Sweepstakes. So please for god sake proceed with caution! Assuming the sending strength of the phone’s GPS transmitter isn’t outrageously powerful, (most are surprisingly weak) the cocoon of fine metal mesh will either completely impede, or severely garble all outgoing signals, rendering you invisible to GPS tracking .

Here’s an example of a source for inexpensive, very fine aluminum mesh that appears as if it would serve this application admirably.

Of course before getting involved with all of that, you could for proof of concept purposes, simply fabricate a rough mock up, using plain old aluminum foil. Just remember, whether it be foil or mesh, it’s critically important that the phone be thoroughly encased on all sides by the EMF shielding.

Now that you’ve gone this far, why stop with your cell phone? -- An Inexpensive Method To Shield a Room Against Microwave Energy
You're talking about Faraday cages:
Having shielded your 'smart'phone, you've then got to keep your face away from all digital cameras.

You've also got to keep all RFID chips that might identify you (e.g. in bank cards, cars, etc.) away from all detectors (in shops, petrol stations, lamp-posts, etc.).

I wouldn't be surprised if keyboard typing patterns are fingerprinted.

There's more audio surveillance than people think, too.

The NSA has some fuckin' powerful computers.

Having whipped your phone out of its case, made your call, and put it back, best advice is...well, don't be in the city, for starters.

(Pedantic point for 'B': phones don't contain GPS transmitters; they detect the signal from satellites and triangulate, sending the location data out to the phone network...and doubtless also to other detectors.)
Or here.
Or here.
You're talking about tin foil hats for phones.
That article in the last link ("An Inexpensive Method") is well worth reading. Interesting stuff on 'smart' meters. I've long been of the view that across-the-board surveillance using electrical mains has been done for years, so maybe these meters are some kind of tweak, or party coming in on the act. (Hello DACS boxes.) Snowden's revelations are the proverbial tip of the tip of the icy cliché. Uncle does a damned sight more than get into your computer.

Only an idiot keeps a wireless router in their home or any other wireless communicator.

In the UK some people who heat their houses using oil keep detectors on their oil tanks which communicate wirelessly with stupid devices they keep permanently plugged into the wall in their kitchens, with antennae sticking out of them. Why? To tell them when the oil is close to running out.

What lazy bastards! Haven't they got the initiative to go outside and look at the tank, or the sense to think "It's been colder than usual, so the oil will run out in the next fortnight if I don't buy some in"? Do they want big business to shove a microchip up their arse so they won't need to 'worry' about when they've got to do a shit? How putty-like can a human being be?

Heavy 'wall wart' type transformers give out loads of EMF. You can often detect the fuckers with a meter through a door from the next room. Anyone who knows this and willingly sleeps near one must be insane.

If someone must use one of those foul microwave trackers called a mobile phone (US: cellphone), they're an idiot if they hold it near their head for long periods.

'Convenience' is one of the oldest lines of advertising bullshit. I hate convenience. Fuck convenience to hell. I like enjoying doing stuff, not just using the stuff when it's done.

I wonder what people do with the time they 'save' (sic) through 'convenience'? Watch more fucking advertisements, probably.

And as for GPS devices in cars! I don't drive, but I sometimes travel in a car. It's so sad, seeing drivers of other cars - real cars, on real roads - sitting with little screens in front of them showing a picture of a road. Most journeys are done by people who've done them hundreds of times before, but they still have those shitty devices turned on. What are they afraid of? Getting lost? And even if they did get lost, wouldn't they get an enjoyment from reading a fucking map?

Are they people or lemmings?

Google Glass - out for the mass market next year, right? Google - a company which is on record as wanting mass chip implantation.

It's like when gullible morons 'recycle' junk mail. What do they think it gets turned into? 'Free' gifts of whatever they've always wanted?

Convenience shits on your time.

The idea that EMF isn't harmful at the levels to which huge numbers of people in 'advanced' countries are subjected to it is bullshit. Yeah right, and living near a nuclear power station and watching violent films isn't harmful either.

A quibble with that article: the watt is a unit of power not energy; W/m^2 is a unit of irradiance, not always the most useful quantity for what we're talking about.
B -- large B, the writer of most of this post -- adds the following:

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I have no desire to try out for the debate team. But I thought you might be interested in the misstatement I made that one of the commenters rightly drew attention to, modestly referring to his/her criticism as a “pedantic point”. As you probably realize, the point while somewhat technical, is actually well taken. The way I stated things, easily allowed for the mistaken impression that cellphones might have some sort of a separate GPS dedicated transmitter. Obviously, what they in fact have is a separate and distinct circuit dedicated to GPS service that is able to directly activate the phone’s power-supply and transmitter whenever stimulated by an incoming GPS signal. – B.
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