Privacy Oriented Phones

Intro & Context

My old dumb Flip Phone is dying. It can hold a charge about 1/2 a day, maybe, and the indexed orientation collar on the charger port is now loose and comes out with he plug 1/2 the time. So it’s time for me to move on to a “smart phone” or accept that I need to find a dumb phone that’s not buggered too.

My first step into this world was to try out a “Burner Phone” from Tracfone. It’s nice, and for all of $80 I got a Samsung ‘smart phone’ device. Service has been quite good and given that I don’t talk or text much, fairly economical. About $10 to $15 / month keeps it alive and with usage time / text volume left over (for me…). As I’ve not installed any Google Apps on it, and don’t have a Google Email address on it (or really any identifying apps) it is modestly private.

THE major exposure it has is the Google Snoop process. Google sniffs all the devices on a given WiFi network, determines the location (via geolocation if turned on, or via other devices if not – so if YOU have turned off geolocation / GPS services, but “that guy over there” has them on, and you are both on the same Starbucks WiFi, Google knows where you are…). So, by now, Google has figured out from that phone and some Google Services on other devices like visitors, that this phone lives at my house, it knows my WiFi names, and it knows where that is. BUT, it doesn’t have any PII Personal Identifying Information. So it won’t know just who is using this phone. Me? Spouse? Renter? Neighbor Kid doing a hijack?

So privacy is OK, but not great

I’d been hoping I’d not have to “build my own” phone (folks do that, you know…) as the Pi Phone is a bit clunky. Yeah, it works, but I’d rather not carry an ugly brick around…

Using a Pi compute board and a nice plastic case could make it somewhat better, but I’d really rather have something more like a “real phone”.

Good hardware, but now China Origin

I’d been waiting for the Pine Phone for a good while, thinking the Pine Laptop and Pine Phone would make a nice combo. Note that the Pine Phone has hardware switches to disable things like camera, microphone, etc. It is really a nice hardware design.

An Open Source Smart Phone Supported by All Major Linux Phone Projects
Perhaps you’re in a line of work where security is a must, or a hard-core Linux enthusiast, or perhaps you’ve just got enough of Android and iOS and you’re ready for something else – the PinePhone may be the next Phone for you. Powered by the same Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 64-Bit SOC used in our popular PINE A64 Single Board Computer, the PinePhone runs mainline Linux as well as anything else you’ll get it to run.

The purpose of the PinePhone isn’t only to deliver a functioning Linux phone to end-users, but also to actively create a market for such a device, as well as to support existing and well established Linux-on-Phone projects. All major Linux Phone-oriented projects, as well as other FOSS OS’, are represented on the PinePhone and developers work together on our platform to bring support this this community driven device.

Here the hardware is reasonable and you can BYO software layer (but with lots of others in the “Y” group). However, I just recently discovered that Pine packed up and moved their HQ to China. No longer a Silicon Valley Company with some stuff fabbed in China. It uses a Chinese Allwinner SOC chip. For me, trading the USA / Google for the CCP / China Inc as my Big Brother is not a winning situation. So unfortunately, just as the Pine Phone becomes real and available, I become resistant.

Well, in the world of alternative tech, patience is a big friend. By waiting to the Bitter End of my old LG Flip Phone, I now have several fairly nice options.

There’s a “BYO Hardware” use their OS from LineageOS

Software Install& Go

LineageOS Android Distribution
A free and open-source operating system for various devices, based on the Android mobile platform.

This is a “De-Googled” Android with an open source “App Store” that runs on a bunch of phones (mostly older models). Just “some assembly required” to put the OS on your phone (IFF it is one that’s supported) and DIY on the config / test / etc. They run on a LOT of phones:

But what if I’m not interested in a “Roll My Own”? Well, you can now buy one already built.

Buy & Go

Your data is YOUR data!

We build desirable, open source,
privacy-enabled smartphone operating systems.
We are /e/

Your smartphone is harvesting your data all day long, capturing with great detail where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing 24/7.

Time to escape from Mobile Surveillance!

Not cheap, since there is no Telco doing a buy-down on the hardware in exchange for selling your information.

Prices range from about 250 € to 500 €.

/e/OS Fairphone 3+
The deGoogled Fairphone 3+ is the next evolution in privacy conscious and sustainable phone. It features 2 new camera modules with 48MP camera and 16MP selfie camera for higher quality pictures and videos and it is made of 40% recycled plastics, the most post-consumer recycled plastic of any Fairphone.

Like the Fairphone 3, it features a removable 3000 mAh rechargeable battery and with its replaceable modules, you can repair it your self with a single screwdriver.

If you love to take beautiful pictures and care about fairer technology, this is your perfect companion.

For me, that price is a bit steep for a phone, so I’m more likely to do the LineagOS on old phone as a DIY project. There are LOTS of old phones for cheap as folks are trained to toss them and buy a new one every year or two.

Here’s a review of the /e/ Phone:

You can also get a LineageOS phone assembled and tested by a customizing service. This video goes over the various issues with using a de-Googled phone, alternative apps, and he also sells phones he’s configured with LineageOS:

There are other privacy oriented phone projects “in the works” but most of those are not yet shipping.

Update: Phase 2, The more hacker friendly options

There’s a wiki that lists the Open Source Phone choices.

Looking down the current status column (far right down the page in the chart) only the Pine Phone is currently shipping. Many are discontinued. That’s a really big trend in secure phone projects. Either they are done by big companies for government & military (and, so, terribly expensive or not available to mere citizens…) or they are seat-of-the-pants and, without a hoard of free support and enthusiasts, tend to die out as they discover most folks just don’t give a damn about privacy or security (thus enriching Google / Android, Apple, … and making powerful the TLAs of the world with their data Hoovers and databases…)

I’m not going to say anything much about the discontinued set. You can “hit the link” to look at them if you like. From the current list of projects, I’m not going to discuss the cancelled, or paused either. Those with some hope of continued life, I’ll discuss.

Open Pandora, GMBH, is “taking pre-orders”, so not quite real yet.

Like the predecessor OpenPandora, the Pyra includes features from several architectures making it a cross between a handheld game console, a subnotebook, a PDA, and a smartphone.

The operating system will be based on the common open source Linux distribution Debian which allows the use of already available desktop open-source applications from the Debian ARM repository, for instance Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, etc. The around 1,500 applications, created for the mostly open source OpenPandora software ecosystem,[9] are expected to be available for the Pyra in short time by source ports.

To me, it looks like the kind of fun gizmo I’d love to play with. But is it something the spouse will slide into her purse? Not so much…

Purism is based out of San Francisco. The Wiki lists it as

“Birch, Chestnut, and Dogwood batches shipped;[15][16] Evergreen batch delayed due to COVID-19, but taking orders”

So in that “awkward stage” having shipped one set of products but with an empty pipeline for the new one and pipeline not moving during shutdowns…

Purism, SPC is a computer technology social purpose corporation based in South San Francisco, California and registered in the state of Washington.

Purism manufactures the Librem personal computing devices with a focus on software freedom, computer security, and Internet privacy. In addition to hardware, Purism also maintains PureOS, an operating system along with Librem One, a social networking service based on open standards.

The PureOS is based on Debian. Their hardware also has hardware kill switches:

Purism devices feature hardware kill switches to allow users to shut off the camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular or mobile broadband modem on devices that have one (or can be purchased air gapped).

Whenever they have product again, this could be a very interesting option (based on actual hardware…)

“On December 6, 2019, Purism announced Librem 5 USA–the same phone, with Made in USA electronic fabrication.”

So made in the USA. Nice. Their “tablet” is Intel based but with the Management Engine turned off. I could see buying that.

Under their Products tab:

Librem 5
A Security and Privacy Focused Phone

The Librem 5 represents the opportunity for you to take back control and protect your private information, your digital life through free and open source software, open governance, and transparency.

The Librem 5 is a phone built on PureOS, a fully free, ethical and open-source operating system that is not based on Android or iOS (learn more about why this is important).
Introducing Librem AweSIM
The Purism cellular plan that works with the Librem 5

Unlimited talk, text, and data for just $99/mo

So they have an available plan / sim card. Might be worth reading about what added features it has…

Pine, as mentioned above, is shipping their “Community Edition”, but I’m no longer enthusiastic about an All China Origin hardware, and management company.

“Necunos Solutions” is listed as “Can not be ordered right now, first batch is awaiting manufacturing”

“Meizu” running a version of Ubuntu or Ubuntu Touch is of limited geography:

“In stores in Egypt, Russia, Ukraine, and Asia Pacific; online in Egypt, Russia, India and Sri Lanka.”

So if you happen to live in one of those countries, you may wish to explore it. Not for me, though.

So that’s pretty much the state of things for the integrated solutions. You can, of course, roll your own.

Roll Your Own Phone

Again from that wiki list:

Distributions for existing phones

postmarketOS, Ubports, and KDE Neon are open-source distributions running on existing smartphones originally running Android. Maemo Leste is available for Nokia N900 and Motorola Droid 4.

There exists a database listing which older phones will run which open-source operating systems.

To that, we also must add the SailfishOS option.

Sailfish OS

The mobile OS solution for corporations and governments

The only mobile operating system offering a regional licensing model
Sailfish OS offers governmental and corporate customers a comprehensive solution, which can be adapted to specific customer needs. It is the perfect solution for building mobile payments and banking, secure communications and corporate solutions, as well as citizen services.

So proprietary, and has a licence…

But it does have some degree of open source attitude:

Sailfish OS Source
Please see Sailfish OS Architecture for a comprehensive list of the various components which make up the Sailfish OS stack, including links to the source repositories for those components.

Here is a table that contains the information about different code locations, how to get an account and what is the contribution policy.

Account can be created by asking lbt or sage at #sailfishos IRC channel at Freenode

NOTE: Only repository maintainers can do pull requests from a branch of the main git tree.

So quasi-open semi-proprietary. OK… Not exactly my cuppa tea. It does run on a lot of devices, though:

Device support
As of May 2020, over two hundred devices are able to boot the operating system, including 92 with WiFi support. This includes many smartphones and tablets that originally ran Android, wearable devices such as Google Glass, smartwatches including the LG G Watch and some Linux-based Nokia smartphones, such as the N900 and N9. After Corellium ported Linux to the iPhone, pmOS also gained support.

I’m not against it. Just not fond of things that don’t let me pull the whole source tree.

PostmarketOS is more interesting to me. Then again, I do things like compile an OS image…

PostmarketOS (stylized as postmarketOS and abbreviated as pmOS) is a free and open-source operating system under development primarily for smartphones, based on the Alpine Linux distribution.

PostmarketOS was launched on May 6, 2017 with the source code available on GitLab. It is capable of running different X and Wayland based user interfaces, such as Plasma Mobile, MATE, GNOME 3, and XFCE,; later updates added support for Unity8 and Phosh. The project aims to provide a ten-year lifecycle for smartphones.
Alpine Linux was chosen as the base distribution due to its low storage requirements, making it more suitable for older devices. Excluding the kernel, a base installation takes up approximately 6 MB.

Alpine is the OS I chose to use on my R.Pi original v6 board for a DNS / Time /etc. server.

Alpine Linux is a Linux distribution based on musl and BusyBox, designed for security, simplicity, and resource efficiency. It used a hardened kernel until release 3.8 and compiles all user-space binaries as position-independent executables with stack-smashing protection.

Much harder to hack and crack.

We are sick of not receiving updates shortly after buying new phones. Sick of the walled gardens deeply integrated into Android and iOS. That’s why we are developing a sustainable, privacy and security focused free software mobile OS that is modeled after traditional Linux distributions. With privilege separation in mind. Let’s keep our devices useful and safe until they physically break!

Runs on 200+ devices. Likely the solution I’d go for to do a Roll My Own. It runs on a Raspberry PI (several versions) so I’d likely start with just putting it on one of mine without the phone bits attached.


This is the UBuntu Touch version of the OS.

Frequent fliers here will not I’m not real fond of Ubuntu. It has SystemD in it (though most of the OS choices for phones here have it… though Alpine ought not.) It had a serious SystemD / fstab interaction that caused me to think 2 of my computers were failed when it was just “hung with blank screen” when a disk was listed in fstab and not plugged in. It is fat, in general. (Efficiency is not their focus). AND Canonical has a couple of times done things that harvest information. Their track record on strict privacy is not good.

Yet this is a community maintained port, so may be cleaned up. Ubuntu also (modulo that hung / dead bug) prone to “just works”. So make up your own mind and preferences.

What is Ubuntu Touch
Ubuntu Touch is the touch-friendly mobile version of Ubuntu. This operating system is developed and maintained by UBports : An international community of passionate volunteers. This means Ubuntu Touch is 100% community driven and independent.

They have 3 officially supported devices (at this time) and a long list of “community supported” and “experimental” devices that includes the Raspberry Pi:

The Raspberry Pi is an affordable ARM-based linux single-board computer. An experimental Ubuntu Touch image is available. You can find installation instructions on GitLab.

The Raspberry Pi is not supported by the UBports Installer yet. You can help us by contributing a config file.

Folks who like Ubuntu and are comfortable with SystemD will likely find this a comfortable option.

KDE Neon

I’m not going to say a whole lot about this one. It’s a KDE version on top of an Ubuntu version. Just a bit of tweeking of particulars vs UBports, IMHO. Most of my opinions will be the same as for UBports. I’d only note that KDE is a high weight look and feel layer.

Introducing KDE neon
The latest and greatest of KDE community software packaged on a rock-solid base.

Now rebased on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, upgrade now.

Maemo Leste

This is one I’m not very familiar with, but definitely needs a good “Dig Here!”.

Maemo Leste is an operating system currently in development. It is a modernised and liberated version of Maemo 5, rebased on top of Devuan with a mainline Linux kernel. The first operating system images were released in February 2018.

It is currently in a usable state with support for various targets such as the N900, Motorola Droid 4 and the PinePhone.

That “in development” is a bit of a worry, but it is also tagged as a page in need of an update.

The project is currently not usable as a daily driver for your device. Maemo Leste is currently in development phase and we are actively searching for developers.

For some devices, we have development images available, such as the N900. So far we have set up Devuan/Debian repositories for our packages, with builds for armhf, arm64 and amd64. We have FOSS replacements for some closed Maemo packages, further building on the Maemo community efforts to replace all closed bits by open software.

So still more Hacker Haven than Daily Driver COTS.

They have a Devo Raspberry Pi M2 image (that will run on a Pi M 3):

Copperhead OS

By request in comments.

CopperheadOS is a proprietary mobile operating system for smartphones, based on the Android mobile platform. It adds privacy and security features to the official releases of the Android Open Source Project by Google.

So not FOSS. The choice between Proprietary and Free and Open Source Software is both philosophical and practical. Generally, companies want to buy something and have commercial support available. They don’t like buying something other folks get for free. (though are starting to ‘get it’ that the free users are their devo and QA crowdsource). The vendor also gets enough money to properly do maintenance and release devo. Win-Win.

But it comes with thistles and stickers. Red Hat became ever more stingy the bigger it got. Now, as a vassal of IBM, it’s started doing annoying things (like SystemD) that please giant shops with a 1000 VMs running and a staff of dozens doing operations, while making it a PITA to the home gamer and “experienced systems admin” cohort. They have one release for the paying customer, and a more difficult to get release to maintain a veneer of FOSS.

Will this go the same way? Who knows…

Project inception and initial releases

The CopperheadOS project was started in 2014 by Copperhead, an information security company based in Toronto, Canada. The company was founded in the same year by James Donaldson, the CEO, and Daniel Micay, the CTO and lead developer, and initially served clients in the Canadian legal and intelligence industries. During this work, the founders noticed an absence of secure, open-source operating systems for mobile devices, and they created CopperheadOS under an open source license to try to address this need.

So, OK, Canadian is good. Legal & Intelligence folks need someone on the hook and have money to wave at them. This could be good. They also have low tollerance for failure of security. It IS Open Source (even if not fully free).

At first, CopperheadOS was licensed under the GNU General Public License,
From October 2016, for versions of CopperheadOS based on Android 7.0 Nougat, Copperhead changed the CopperheadOS license to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) license. According to Donaldson, this was to prevent other companies from using the CopperheadOS code without paying Copperhead for licensing, in order to keep the project sustainable.

So the licence wars have begun…

Copperhead began selling Google Pixel phones pre-loaded with CopperheadOS in March 2017, in addition to their lineup of Nexus phones. For Nexus devices, users could download and install CopperheadOS for free; however, this option was not made available for Pixel phones. For Pixel phones, users could either buy a phone from the Copperhead store with CopperheadOS pre-loaded, or send their own phone to Copperhead for the operating system to be installed on it. This was done to prevent violations of CopperheadOS’s non-commercial license; Copperhead competitors had been selling Nexus phones with CopperheadOS installed without obtaining a commercial license, and Copperhead wanted to avoid this issue with the Pixel. The issue came to a head in November the same year, when Copperhead briefly shut down the update server for Nexus devices in order to stop the continued license violations. The company restored the update server after two days.

Gee, at any time you might find your update / upgrade path “goes away” for a while. You have a company being a bit obsessive about assuring they can do “local monopoly pricing” on their phones rather than let a few scammers sell at lower margins.

Um, at this point the notion I can buy one from their web site at what must be higher prices just isn’t all that attractive. I understand that as a commercial operation they have to turn a profit, but once again trying to be “half free” gets into “issues” that impact the customers.

Oh Boy! AND you get “Founder Food Fights!” for sweetner!

Disagreements between the two founders over business policy became increasingly heated over the first few months of 2018, and led to Donaldson firing Micay in June of that year. Micay responded by posting his dismissal notice on Reddit, and by deleting the cryptographic keys necessary to release updates for the project. Micay said that he considered “the company and infrastructure to be compromised”, and that he would “prevent [Donaldson] from harming any users”. Copperhead failed to provide CopperheadOS updates for several months afterwards. Micay continued the development of the open source parts of CopperheadOS as the Android Hardening project, which was later rebranded as GrapheneOS. According to Donaldson, as of February 2019 he and Micay were in a legal dispute over the incident.

OK, at this point “I’m out”. Legal entanglements. Industrial quasi-sabotage. MONTHS of no updates possible. It may be the best thing ever, but I’m not going to embrace those issues and make them my own.

In Conclusion

That’s a “quick and dirty” (and likely too long…) dip into the FOSS / Free Cell Phone Options.

At the moment, for me, I’d be most likely to buy a premade LineageOS phone provided the $Bucks were reasonable, or put a copy of PostmarketOS on either a R.Pi (if interested in HW Hacking a bit) or on an old phone (if wanting something cheap and workable).

In the longer run, Maemo Leste has promise as a Devuan based option, but not today unless you are a developer.

That’s my view of things. If you want me to look at any other particulars, leave a comment and I’ll add them down in comments.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Privacy Oriented Phones

  1. pouncer says:

    About once per year I shop HSN and/or QVC — and only for Tracfones. For $80 or so you get the device and one full year of connectivity and about 1000 “minutes” of voice, another 1000 SMS texts and a Gb of data. If you run low on metered use during the year, you can top off with another 1000 whatevers for about $20 — which I may need twice during the year. YMMV. (Topping off using the webpage and establishing an account. For privacy you could instead buy (with anonymous cash) a pre-paid usage card at the local grocery store.

    Compared to $20 or so per month for a connection and often double that with payments for a device from the AT&T / Apple cartel, I’m very pleased with myself.

  2. View from the Solent says:

    Have you looked at the Linux-based Sailfish OS? It can be installed on several (many?) rooted phones.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Part of my “experiment” with burner phones was to only pay cash, from phone purchase to cards. It was enlightening. Needed hat & glasses to defeat stor camera (phone ID recorded at sale to activate device, so w/date sramp coukd be matched to camera photonthen facial recognition tk your drivers lucence photo. Easier to do now with face masks :-) Simikarly with too uo cards as they, too, get activated. In theory, need to confuse / defeat traffic cameras by buying in rural areas w/o cameras.

    Can’t have your tagged cell phone with you during the buy, or you tag the burner by proximity.

    Don’t take it home for first bring up, as you need to turn off stuff like geolocate first. Do alk config changes before activating with prepay card. Do this somewhere w/o cameras and away from home.

    Over time, WiFi profiling will map your usual haunts and finger you via other devices. So turn off blyetooth and wifi until and unless you need them. It helps to force use of a VPN (so a portable vpn is a future project…)

    Overall, its5 a bit of a PITA, so better to get the stupid flip phone if you need hard security. Since I’m just playing and learning I went for the buy down on the smart phone (well, that, and the good flip I wanted was sold out).

    Overall, a useful exercise. It is now my main phone and I don’t bother protecting against SiFi / MAC fingerprinting anymore. The Verizon Flip lives on life suppirtfor legacy callers and voice mail.

    Which brings up another point: IF you use the burner to regularly call the same Family & Friends, the usage pattern / call history (contact tracing) will eventually finger you as the owner / user. Essentially, for industrial privacy, you need burner to burner and device / number changed offten. But at least nkw I kniw why in the movies they are alwayx tossing out phones ;-)

    My interest? As a White Hat I need to know how to protect my people and how to break that protection for bad people. Security is kind of like the Klingon Reflective Game. You must beat yourself, and not, to win…


    It is comming in part two, thd update, mentioned at the end. First cut was “context & easy for non hackers to buy”. Next bit is more “DIY & Issues”. An example issue being what the open source wiki says about it:

    “Sailfish OS is a proprietary user interface atop the Mer middleware; it is thus not included.”

    So takes a discussion of that which average Joe & Jane don’t need to just buy something that works… just how closed and proprietary is it? And what does that mean to the user?

  4. Look into copperhead os it is designed to be private also

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    OK. I’ve put up some more above.

  6. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – According to my flip-phone geolocator, I haven’t left the house for 5 months 😁

    Seriously, I so seldom use my phone that I figured, why bother bringing it along anymore? All I was doing was letting the contact tracers and TLAs know that I had broken contain.

    It’s a risk. There used to be payphones everywhere before cell phones became affordable and very common. Now, the only pay phone I can recall that I have seen recently is in Florid just down the street from the RV park where we stay at a 4-storefront strip mall that has a gas station as the anchor business. So if I’m in a fender bender, it’s kinda back to old school, before everyone had a phone/camera on their person.

    But… the insurance company can just ask for all the Big Brother surveillance images, so who needs a camera?

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    I too leave my Telco cell at home (on the charger and turned on).

    When leaving the house, I take the burner phone. (Turn it on away from the house… if you want to avoid tagging it to your home location).. The dumb phones were about $20 and smart phones about $60, with $10/month for service if you don’t talk a lot. IMHO, well worth it for the advantages.

    Almost nobody has that number. My Telco Known phone hasn’t left the house in a year or 2. I must be a real home body ;-)

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Probably ought to also mention the ZeroPhone.

    Uses a Pi Zero in a DIY Kit Phone. Something for project oriented folks…

  9. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Well, we all do know how you work at phone security and anonymity. This post and comment thread isn’t your first rodeo on the topic.

    I was just recalling that when we had that little meet ‘n greet in Lakeland, Florida in January of ’19, you gave Ossqss, Rhoda, and me your “Florida phone” number. It came with the caveat that it was only good to reach you while you were in Florida.

    Since then, we’ve discussed Faraday cages, battery removal, and who knows what all to protect ones location and movements, but I keep going back to that idea as a cheap, simple, foolproof way to keep the TLAs and their AI algorithms in the dark.

    OK. The Mrs. and I do 3 months in Florida. That’s one phone; a Florida phone. Let’s call that #1. Then at home base, I should have another phone that says H.R. is hanging around the house. Let’s call that #2, and H.R. never leaves the house 😜

    But then if I had a third phone, #3, I could leave the house with it turned off and only turn it on when I was someplace I needed it, such as after an accident, or to check with the campgrounds in Georgia on the way to Florida, or perhaps call E.M. or Ossqss in Florida to see whassup when we are all in the State.

    What I’m getting at is that I don’t think the TLAs or the AI algorithms have accounted for someone who has multiple phones for use at different locations. Each phone would kind of ‘pop up’ seemingly randomly and would be hard to associate with the other phones at their other ‘usual’ locations.

    You’ve written about this a bit, and you have that as a strategy, at least with the Florida phone. I’d imagine that with a minimum of 3 phones and maybe 4 or 5 of them, AND if they were cheap enough to drop one or add one in at a moment’s notice AND one might just randomly change the, say #3 phone for a new #3 phone, AND they were all bought with cash and minutes filled with prepaid cards bought with cash… then by golly it would be mighty gosh-darn hard to keep track of someone doing that unless the NSA was making an all out effort to keep that someone under phone, video, and eyes-on surveillance.

    I’m just thinking of a way to consciously make it hard for any of the usual ways the gubbermint or Big Tech keeps track of people to succeed against an intentionally ‘screwball’ case.

    None of what I wrote above is new – not at all; everything discussed long prior – but I think the value add is the random replacement of the multiple phones that are turned on/off when they are used for their specified purpose.
    Oh! Now what would be really fun, if there’s a way to keep the phone powered up for a l-o-o-o-n-g time, is to drive the phone several States away before abandoning it. After a few years and many abandoned phones, you’d be everywhere from a phone-as-location POV. 🤣🤣

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    I use a 12 vdc to 120 AC inverter that cost about $25 at any truck stop or auto parts store to run the phone charger while crossing the country. Then, for recent phones, just plug it into a USB port at arrival. I have a couple of 2 to 6 outlet adapters from home depot at about $6 that include USB 5 vdc outlets. Plug in wall sonewhere behind boxes, plug in phone, drive away.

    You can buy replacement sim cards for different prepay vendors at about $1 each at Best Buy. No need for a new phone to change service provider… or “account” . Just sim cards and prepay cards.

    FWIW, since I didn’t get back to Florida as planned, the Florida Number now works everywhere… except I only answer numbers in the phone already and voice mail is not set up… so only a text message gets to me the first time to set up contact…

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Interesting…. there is now a “prepaid sim” so only one thing to buy…

    You would still have the same IMEI (phone equivalent of MAC address) but there may be a way to change that too…

    So $5 for 250 minutes of talk or 250 texts. Then toss, get a new card and phone number….

    A short search later

    … yes!

    Serial # too

    So, OK, $5 per phone change, usage time included!

  12. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – Since you were headed home from Florida when we met, I just wrote down the number in case we happened to be in Florida at the same time again… maybe have another Chiefio Blog Festive Occasion with Dodgy Proceedings. I figured that blog postings of who was where, when would dictate whether or not I’d ever call the number. So far, ummm… nope.

    So anyhow, having 2 -3 phones where one disappears now and then is cool, but what I thought was REALLY good for muddying the waters was to find a way to keep the abandoned phone powered up for a few years in a location totally unrelated to you.

    But while I was reading your replies about “identity makeovers” for phones, the thought struck me that it would be even better yet if you could get a power supply that would keep an abandoned phone going for a couple of years…. and then securing the abandoned phone up under the wheel well of say, a Greyhound bus, or something like that.

    Track THAT NSA! 🤣🤣

    Would that be fun or what?!?!

    P.S. I’ve got a flip phone in reserve. We bought one for my mother-in-law, but she had just made the switch to a smartphone of some sort so she could text and share pictures with her only grand-daughter; our niece and of course the thoroughly spoiled one of all the grandkids. (Not even the grandsons object. They know how it goes and they are protective of her, too.) So I have one more spare before I have to bite the bullet and get something besides a flip phone.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    FWIW, most modern phones just need 5 VDC through a USB connection to stay powered up. There are linear power chips that take 12 VDC and make it 5 VDC (how those power adapters that plug into a cigarette lighter work … you know, the $2.99 round things in the big bin at the Auto Parts store?). So just wire one into the 12 V on any vehicle and plug the phone into it. Put it under the dash somewhere and it wouldn’t be found until… a long time.

    Bigger issue is keeping the service plan loaded. I supposed you could do that online via a VPN so filling it back up was not always from the same geography different from the phone…

    Or, one could just give it to some kid with one ‘top up’ card and instructions on how to get more… “You” would not only move about, but call all sorts of other people too ;-)

  14. H.R. says:

    @E.M. – 🤣🤣🤣👍…

    …particularly if it’s 4 or 5 old phones that you abandon that way. I’m thinking it’s well worth $60 or $80 per year just to muddy the water. They’ll think they are tracking Batman, or something.

    (Trace THAT, you TLA scumbags! 😁)

  15. pouncer says:

    “Or, one could just give it to some kid with one ‘top up’ card and instructions on how to get more…
    “You” would not only move about, but call all sorts of other people too ;-) ”

    I love that idea!

    I’m reminded of an old TV Perry Mason stunt. Perry needs to keep his client’s fingerprints from being associated with a particular rental automobile. But legally he’s bound not to destroy evidence by wiping the car clean. So he lets some air out of a tire, waves some $20 bills around, and asks a bunch of teenagers to push the (fancy) car to the garage, get the tire fixed or at least inflated, enjoy use of the car for the rest of the day, then turn it in to the rental agency before deadline that night.

    So a zillion more-or-less innocent prints inside, outside, all round and all on top of the significant prints…

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    Nice trick!

    Also avoids the very suspicious lack of fingerprints…

    But yeah, same idea. Muddy the trail with lots of unrelated.

  17. Taz says:

    Not happy with the available options, but our compromise used the iphone SE or the ipod. Both support Signal easily, and PSTN support is available through MySudo (encrypted virtual phone in the cloud. Uses G711 so landline quality).

    Target still sells the Freedompop 1GB/mo LTE data sims for $35-$50/yr. Pay with cash. If you really want more, add the app “Edgewise Connect” so you can channel bond your Freedompop AT&T service to any of the other carriers via a wifi hotspot. We have hotspots for every carrier, but mostly rely on Tmobile for the second carrier. Really eliminates cellular dead spots……AT&T now matches Verizon for national coverage, but they have generators at their cellsites to support their FirstNet responsibilities. FCC only requires cellsites to stay up 4 hrs upon power loss…so anyone with generators really deserves a premium charge. Yet Target still sells those cheap annual cards.

    As backup we have kit in the cars for 6ghz Satpaq satellite texting. There is an initial hardware hit, but frugal people can get satellite service for $55/yr. Comes with that commercial 911 emergency service manned by real humans from a North Houston fallout bunker. You won’t get some jackass debating which 911 area you are in. They’ll look it up manually and just call 911 for you.

    BTW, Tmobile was giving away their mobile hotspots a few months back. May still be doing it. Typical Chinese firmware nightmare, but radio chip is extremely good and these hotspots support Tmobile’s 600mhz rural bands. Run the 30 day trial out, remove the Tmobile Sim – then replace with a $100yr Sim bought on Ebay. Works fine.

    Completely unbiased here since we purchased out hotspots at full retail price. This is a good deal.

    If you use Edgewise with Mysudo your voice, text, email traffic will be carried by two different VPNs + MySudo does not know your identity. All voice is encrypted via symmetrical key much like ZRTP – then bundled into those two VPNs for transport. They claim (no court cases yet) that even upon legal request they could not give away your identity. Enjoy this until our out of control government takes it from you.

    Those really freaked out should just use an ipod with a anonymous hotspot (buy used) and a prepaid Sim purchased with cash.

    It should not be this difficult to keep government faggots out of your business.

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