There’s about two months now that my old phone is gone. It was a dual sim QWERTY brick phone, so my next choice was to get out from the cave and finally take a smapho but just as a second phone.
Think on it. A smartphone is a mobile multiprotocol terminal, in practice it’s an ARM portable computer with the ability to make phone calls.
Privacy and smartphones are two words that doesn’t match. Also smartphones and reliability doesn’t match too.
First of all, on the privacy side there is a lot to talk about.
Obviously smartphones does not allow only to trace an user based on the three BTS where he was connected to find the strongest signal for GSM communication but also allow tracing based on wifi and sometimes GPS positioning.
When you interact on the Internet and you allow the phone to send GPS coordinates, you are likely to be traced with few meters of error in the worst case. It’s not a GSM triangulation, it’s your position. Through a smartphone someone can see what you see and hear what you hear (and say).
The smartphone has a complex software, expandable software, upgradeable software and this may hypothetically happen without you to know. The technology to do so exists, so maybe these methods are not used but it’s possible, and Snowden files clearly tell us that is not science fiction.
Even my “fucking” e-ink reader, that has the only job to display text was unusable without connecting to the Internet at the first boot, register my identity and download updates. Who can assure me that he doesn’t trace even the books I’ve not taken to the official store? Who can assure me that I won’t be classified in base of my typical lectures?
A special topic for me is also the question about Chinese imported smartphones, not Chinese phones specifically designed to be sold on our country but classical iphone and samsung clones designed for Chinese market but also exported worldwide. People like these smaphos because they are cheap and sometimes they have the same shape of an iPhone, so they are automatically fashion-approved. But we can trust them? Anyone who is aware of the Green Dam software story may have to rise suspects about Chinese imported computers. (https://opennet.net/chinas-green-dam-the-implications-government-control-encroaching-home-pc).
Smartphones, on the top, always runs an Android ROM with several personalizations respect to the vanilla code by Google. Can we trust them? Under wich law and specification requirements they are built and programmed? Can we check if these goods are spyware-free and rootkit-free? Can we install on them our custom rom?
Without clear answers to these questions is really hard to trust in a computer or phone specifically designed for Chinese users (all we know how Chinese Government communication censorship and control is powerful).
So I’m obviously going to trust more of a Chinese smartphone designed under UE or US specifications and sold in Europen or American markets than a Chinese smartphone designed under Chinese Government’s specifications to be sold in China and exported everywhere.
That’s the first of motives I’ve taken the smartphone (UE Certified) as a second phone. I need GPS tracing? Turn it on and navigate. I need internet? Turn it on and surf.
I don’t need all these features but only a phone? Stay off in my backpack.
The second important thing to analyze is that smartphones are not reliable. Yes there are exceptions but in general you canno’t count on them more than two or three days (often 8 hours is enough to stress battery) without need to find a plug. That’s insane! Most of them are totally unusable after a small crash (Who have seen funny memes on nokia 3310? Think they are memes? When largely in use I’ve seen this class of phone falling in many ways: cellphone on one side, battery on the other side and sometimes worse but every classic nokia like brick always restart without a fuss).
That’s reliability. I need phone and it works! Also after two or more days of emergency. This is the main aspect that let me continue to use a brick phone as main phone and the smartphone as a little tablet with backup phone functionality.
Remote cellphone hijacking is also more complicated, you do not always have remote software upadtes. I’m not saying that wiretapping is impossible with normal cellphones but you can only be traced by some entities like government and police, that are supposed to not abuse of their power (already Snowden seems to have different clues), intercepting only criminals or suspected criminals. On the other side, with a smartphone, tracing is common and widespread: Large Companies will trace you, maybe black hats hackers will also able to trace you and so on… remotely they can interact with your phone, turn on camera, obtain position, trace your web navigation.
So it’s not the twilight of the oldstyle cellphone. If you want a reliable phone and care about your privacy, take an old cheap brick.