How to Protest Safely in the Age of Surveillance

a protestor holding up a sign that reads Black Lives Matter - Photograph: MARK FELIX/Getty Images

How to Protest Safely in the Age of Surveillance
WIRED, May 31, 2020
Security
By Andy Greenberg & Lily Hay Newman

“Law enforcement has more tools than ever to track your movements and access your communications. Here’s how to protect your privacy if you plan to protest.”

 

For the past several nights, militarized police in cities across the United States have deployed armored vehicles and rubber bullets against protesters and bystanders alike. If you’re going out to protest—as is your right under the First Amendment—and bringing your smartphone with you, there are some basic steps you should take to safeguard your privacy. The surveillance tools that state and federal law enforcement groups have used at protests for years put it at risk right along with your physical wellbeing.

 

There are two main aspects of digital surveillance to be concerned about while at a protest. One is the data that police could potentially obtain from your phone if you are detained, arrested, or they confiscate your device. The other is law enforcement surveillance, which can include wireless interception of text messages and more, and tracking tools like license plate scanners and facial recognition. You should be mindful of both.

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About the Authors:

Andy Greenberg is a senior writer for WIRED, covering security, privacy, information freedom, and hacker culture. He’s the author of the book Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers. The book and excerpts from it published in WIRED won a Gerald Loeb Award for International Reporting, two Deadline Club Awards from the New York Society of Professional Journalists, and the Cornelius Ryan Citation for Excellence from the Overseas Press Club. Greenberg works in WIRED’s New York office.

Lily Hay Newman is a senior writer at WIRED focused on information security, digital privacy, and hacking. She previously worked as a technology reporter at Slate magazine and was the staff writer for Future Tense, a publication and project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. Additionally her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Fast Company, IEEE Spectrum, and Popular Mechanics. She lives in New York City.