Privacy SOS

The two most important things protesters can do to secure their phones

People across the country are protesting police violence and white supremacy. Over the past few days, hundreds have been arrested in cities across the nation, from San Francisco to New York City to Baton Rouge. Below are the two most important things protesters can do to secure their phones, besides leaving them at home.

Use secure texting apps

Police departments across the United States possess technologies that enable them to track cell phones at protests and elsewhere. These devices, called stingrays, can pinpoint the identity and location of phones; some models can even sniff your texts and calls. To protect your communications, use Signal or WhatsApp. Both apps are free, end-to-end encrypted, and work on Androids and iPhones. You can set up secure group messaging in both, which is useful for communicating with a crew of trusted people. For organizing purposes, group messaging on Signal is a good alternative to secure email, which is more complicated to use. Make sure your friends download one or both of these apps; they only work if both the sender and the receiver have installed them.

Encrypt and protect your phone with a strong password

Police departments also use technologies that enable them to physically extract the data from unencrypted devices. To keep your information secure, encrypt your device. If you’re an Android user, you must turn encryption on. The latest iPhone operating system runs encryption automatically. Make sure you have downloaded the latest software updates, no matter which kind of phone you use. Keep in mind that the encryption on Android and iPhone is only as secure as the password protecting it. Follow these instructions to craft a strong password—especially if you think you might be arrested or detained by police. 

For a detailed mobile security guide, see:

For much more detailed information about how to secure your digital life, see:

For information about how to protect your security online and off, see:

© 2017 ACLU of Massachusetts.