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This is something I was wondering while trying to improve my privacy.

Mobile devices tend to use geolocation based on WiFi networks they find available (thanks to evil Google...).

One could use airplane mode for most of the time and hope that the "angels" at Google et al. adhere to this setting, but during initial device setup or perhaps even during OS startup, (I guess) there is no built-in way to prevent that. Or am I wrong?

Has anyone any hack ideas for preventing a device from seeing WiFi networks?

I guess this is not something easy, but I was wondering if there is a cool way I haven't thought of. Some quick and crazy ideas of mine:

Things that will render the device useless:

  • Using a jammer of some sort
  • Wrapping the device in aluminium foil
  • Entering an EMF-shielded place or going into the wilderness

Destructive measures:

  • Removing the WiFi antenna from the device will require invasive measures, and devices nowadays make it hard to allow internal access to you without breaking their body.

Software-based measures:

  • Finding all the data upload domains and blocking them will probably not be easy at all.

If anyone has any other ideas, I would love to hear them. Anything applicable to Android devices, iOS devices, Windows laptops, etc.

And it is funny that no competitor even thought of producing more privacy-oriented products to compete with others. While they strive to secure their devices from hackers.

This whole post might sound funny, but having sensors collect data and send them to anyone does not sound like a good idea to me. Everyone is bothered with security and totally neglect privacy. For me, the only difference between the two is who the perpetrator is: evil Google or an evil person who will most likely be less sophisticated than Google.

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    Install LineageOS or similar?
    – vidarlo
    Feb 7, 2023 at 17:00
  • @vidarlo This seems interesting. I wasn't aware of this Android variant. Of course this requires swapping the entire OS, but it is probably less desperate than my ideas. :) Feb 7, 2023 at 17:04
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    (you definitely won't find any privacy nutjobs around here ... they're all perfectly sane due to an "unhealthy" knowledge of the underlying tech!) to clarify, are you talking about an android device in particular? most allow you to turn the wifi off and just use the mobile network (4g/lte/5g/etc) .. faraday bags are also a thing .. wifi is definitely a concern, but you also need an outbound firewall to bring all the other ears to heel - another option: grapheneos.org/faq#wifi-privacy
    – brynk
    Feb 7, 2023 at 21:29
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    well, i personally haven't used one of these so can't endorse, but it has a clear viewing window and (surprisingly?) still functions .. aussecurityproducts.com.au/products/… .. yes i agree soft-switches always leave that "dangling question-mark" - have you considered rolling without a sim? you should still be able to make an emergency call in most legal jurisdictions
    – brynk
    Feb 9, 2023 at 9:33
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    iOS limits app access to wifi / LAN, has very granular controls for Location privacy, and you can turn wifi off. apple.stackexchange.com/questions/411798/…
    – pseudon
    Feb 14, 2023 at 23:27

2 Answers 2

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Walking around with a 2.4/5 Ghz jammer is very illegal and potentially disruptive to other lawful unlicensed operation in the band, licensed operation in the neighboring bands as well as neighboring public safety bands, drop that idea.

  • Buy a phone with kill switches (Pinephone, Librem 5, etc).
  • Use a phone which does not run proprietary software with features you do not agree with (LineageOS, Linux, etc).
  • Buy a phone that doesn't have WiFi. Carry a device which does but runs open source software and/or has kill switches for WiFi.
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  • I was aware of Pinephone, but the warranty of this thing seems too short to justify the money (1 month!). I don't know if this is in direct correlation to its average expected lifespan or not, but I would guess that it is. Also, it feels more targeted to Linux hobbyists and not so much normal "production" usage (I might be wrong). I will look into Librem 5. It looks promising so far. Feb 7, 2023 at 18:14
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    A much bigger driving factor than quality is probably that these phones are made in small quantities and a replacement may be impossible to fulfill in a year. And yes, it's a Linux hobbyist phone. Depending on one's camp that is a bonus to privacy.
    – foreverska
    Feb 7, 2023 at 22:07
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Turning off wifi works for this, however E911, for 20 years now, used by cell carriers gets your position within under 100 feet in most cases. The carrier can see this and any app-allowed location reading on the handset can. If you think Google is evil, get a non-Android phone

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  • I agree. Generally speaking, all mobile phones can be tracked using triangulation. However, there is a small sub-category of devices, like some tablets, that don't have mobile connection capabilities built-in. So, those won't have that kind of problem. Feb 16, 2023 at 9:00

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