After the election, individuals took to the streets across the country to express their outrage and disappointment at the result of the U.S. presidential election. Many protesters may not be aware of the unfortunate fact that exercising their First Amendment rights may open themselves up to certain risks. Those engaging in peaceful protest may be subject to search or arrest, have their movements and associations mapped, or otherwise become targets of surveillance and repression. It is important that in a democracy citizens exercise their right to peaceably assemble, and demonstrators should be aware of a few precautions they can take to keep themselves and their data safe. Here we present 10 security tips for protesting in the digital age.
- Enable full-disk encryption on your device
Recent versions of Android and iOS require full-disk encryption capabilities to be built into devices. These should be protected by a strong password, 8-12 random characters that are nonetheless easy to remember and type in when you unlock your device. If devices are not protected by a strong password, the encryption may be easier to break using a brute force attack.Recent editions of the iPhone have employed specialized hardware to protect against this type of attack, but a complex password is still advisable.
- Remove fingerprint unlock
In iOS, you can disable this by going into
Settings -> Touch ID & Passcodeand removing each of the fingerprints in this menu.
In Android, disabling this feature may depend on your device manufacturer. For Nexus devices, go into
Settings -> Security -> Nexus Imprintand delete the fingerprints from this menu.
- Take photos and videos without unlocking your device
With Android Nexus devices, double-press the power button.
At the iOS lock screen, you can swipe to the right.
- Install Signal
In addition to encrypting one-to-one communication, Signal enables encrypted group chats. The app also recently added the functionality of having messages disappear ranging anywhere from 10 seconds to a week after they are first read. In contrast to some other services like SnapChat, these ephemeral messages will never be stored on any server, and are removed from your device after disappearing.
Recently, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia issued a subpoena to Open Whisper Systems, the maintainers of Signal. Because of the architecture of Signal, which limits the user metadata stored on the company’s servers, the only data they were able to provide was "the date and time a user registered with Signal and the last date of a user's connectivity to the Signal service."
- Read our Surveillance Self Defense (SSD) guide for street-level protests
- Use a prepaid, disposable phone
- Back up your data
- Consider biking or walking to the protest
Consider using alternative means of transportation if you would prefer that your movements and associations remain private.
Read more in our Street Level Surveillance guide on ALPRs.
- Enable airplane mode
- Organizers: consider alternatives to Facebook and Twitter