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Trying to follow up this post How to trace a (mobile) phone? , the answers on how to prevent being tracked while you own a mobile phone are: You cant. (even if you use disposable phones etc)

1) Why a similar concept as Tor project wont work in this scenario? (all the nodes /towers are controlled by people/ a company that does not want to participate?)

2) Few start ups will start selling mobile phone subscriptions by utilizing Wifi connections. Will this be a way finally , a way to protect against tracking ? (At least in towns , and assuming different people control the AP)

My question comes as it is difficult to believe that so many billions are spent for online privacy , creating new encryption algorithms etc etc, but with a few hundred dollars equipment you can intercept calls , and all companies can track you down.

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    Your comment regarding disposable phones is only half right. You can be entirely anonymous if you don't carry out correlatable activities through these phones, however in the real world if you always visit your email account adn your facebook page (for example) then you have broken that anonymity. – Rory Alsop Dec 11 '13 at 16:17
  • @Rory Alsop in the link provided above i am refering to Lucas Kauffman answer which seems a possible way to track people using disposable phones. – blended Dec 11 '13 at 17:05
  • Exactly - as Lucas pointed out, the best scenario device-wise is disposable, one-use phones. The problem is your behaviour. It doesn't matter what hardware you place in the way if you keep using the same web sites and logging in as you. – Rory Alsop Dec 11 '13 at 17:43
  • Arguably , even thought this is not party of this question , i would say that logging in as you is like shouting who you are , Lucas refered to some less trivial attributes: " The information collected includes call logs, Bluetooth devices in proximity, cell tower IDs, application usage, and phone status (such as charging and idle), which comes primarily from the Context application" . Arguably again i wouldnt call this attributes correlatable activities. Or at least ,you have to put effort into faking them – blended Dec 11 '13 at 18:41
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Your question presents a number of interesting issues. I hope you are asking this question out of general concern for your privacy and not for an illegal purpose.

First and foremost, what countermeasures (if any) you would use depend on your security requirements. Your level of paranoia/fear will vary according to whether you are seeking to avoid detection for activities that are merely embarassing (i.e. cheating on your spouse), or mildly criminal (you sell bags of weed to your classmates) or very criminal (you are a member of the Mexican drug cartel). An adversary in a civil lawsuit might be able to subpoena your cell tower records; it would be trivial for a government agency such as the DEA or NSA to get these records if you were of interest to them.

Phones that connect to the cell phone network must connect through a cell site, and the location of the site is recorded and correlated with the serial number of the phone. Many phones can be used without connecting to the cell phone network by using only public wi-fi connections. Telephony apps exist for phones having only wi-fi connections. However, your phone might generate and transmit GPS coordinates (attached to Tweets or Facebook posts) and the phone's location would be somewhat trackable by IP address.

The DEA and NSA are known to be able to detect the use of a newly acquired "burner" phone by correlating metadata among the people you regularly contact. If you are in contact with the same phone numbers as with your old phone, for example your fellow gang members or dope dealers, it is trivial for a law enforcement or intelligence agency to discover your new phone. A CIA official recently gave a presentation in which he stated that phones can be tracked if turned off provided the battery is still attached; and that some phones having kinetic input can be tracked according to the user's gait as she walks down the street!

The key question here is whether it would be worth your while, or that of your associates, to use unusual or "tinfoil hat" methods of attempting to mask your location or the phone's serial number. Unless you are doing something that is certain to attract serious law enforcement interest, and even if you are, you are probably better off not attempting to use methods such as using and repeatedly switching "burner" phones. You might well become more visible than if you did nothing.

Finally, don't forget that your movements can also be tracked through fixed and mobile license-plate recording cameras, and GPS-based vehicle systems such as OnStar. It sucks to be a criminal, or to value one's privacy, these days.

For legal advice consult a licensed attorney.

  • I am concerned about my privacy in the mobile phone 'world' as i am concerned while browsing online or using a desktop/laptop. "Phones that connect to the cell phone network..serial number of the phone", that give your radius location, trilateration gives much more specific. +1for DEA and NSA part. Still it should be a much easier way for regular user to have more privacy. For instance i wouldnt care if everyone knew my 'radius location' that is like you know my ip, but i would like everyone to know my exact address:D – blended Dec 15 '13 at 1:32
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It's all a matter of cost-benefit analysis.

1) Why a similar concept as Tor project wont work in this scenario? (all the nodes /towers are controlled by people/ a company that does not want to participate?)

Setting up a Tor node is virtually costless. You just download a free program and run it on your computer. That's it. Setting up a secure mobile phone cell site? Not as cheap. Now think of doing that on a wider level.

Plus, almost any comparison to the Tor network fails miserably. The Tor network is built on top of a very flexible and extensible network - the Internet.

2) Few start ups will start selling mobile phone subscriptions by utilizing Wifi connections. Will this be a way finally , a way to protect against tracking ? (At least in towns , and assuming different people control the AP)

No need for that, there already exist solutions for this:

  1. Securely acquire a cellular phone (pawn shops, second-hand, or a new one with a fake ID)

  2. Securely acquire a cellular phone subscription (pre-paid or using a fake ID).

  3. Activate data connection (3G, GPRS, etc.)

  4. Have your friends/"associates" do the same.

  5. Use the Internet to make all of your calls over secure VOIP services.

This way, the cellular phone subscription isn't linked to you or any of your friends. Nothing to track.

  • I was mostly asking for casual user privacy,especially tracking. The usability of throwing away a mobile phone/day is not the best. VOIP can not yet been used on the street, (2 question, using wifis) we are talking about the same think , but is not yet widely deployed. – blended Dec 11 '13 at 17:03
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    @Adnan, traffic analysis still reveals the existence of relationships between devices. If one user is identified for any reason (pulled over for speeding), the relationships to others are still visible in the history. Also, synchronized movement of devices would be identifiable. As "associated" phones travel with more legitimate phones, the parallel tracks would be enough to associate you with the group. – John Deters Dec 11 '13 at 17:11

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