Pyra Mobile Edition & Location Privacy


Librelism

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I've recently become more concerned about the concept of mobile phones effectively tracking the user's location by constantly pinging towers. I've also heard that even if a device does not have a SIM card, this can still occur.

This got me thinking about the Pyra Mobile Edition, for which I have a preorder:
  • Would the Pyra Mobile Edition have this same function of pinging towers even when the mobile network is not in use?
  • Is the user able to completely power off the mobile network connection to avoid connecting to towers when they want to stay offline?
In order to ensure better privacy in this regard, I was considering changing my pre-order to the wifi-only edition, but I'm wondering if this would be overkill, and maybe I'm just worrying over nothing. I am hoping to use the Pyra with a VOIP line to use it as a phone, and just want to make sure I'm actually addressing the privacy issues I have with cell phones by making this switch to Pyra.
 
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pmprog

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IIRC there was talk of a hardware switch to kill the modem, and I'm also sure there was talk of a hardwired LED that will light up on data transmission. I'm not sure if either of these were implemented.

That said, the hardware and OS is (or will be) all open source, so you can always validate all functionality of your device, and even build afresh if you're worried about the default installation.
 

Librelism

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Perhaps this is different with the Pyra, but it was my understanding that all 4G modems require some proprietary software which could be programmed to at least ping towers without the user's consent unless completely powered off. Is this not the case with the Pyra?
 

pmprog

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Well, it really needs to check what towers are available to determine if signal is available. You are allowed to call emergency numbers even if you have no SIM card in a mobile phone. I assume there will be some airplane/flight mode that disables all network connectivity regardless.

Ultimately though, I guess you can't 100% guarantee what's written in the modem firmware unless you get super deep into extracting and decompiling what's in the modem chip...
 

Silent-Hunter

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I was under the impression there was a hardware power switch, but not a dedicated light.
 

CommanderB

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I was under the impression there was a hardware power switch, but not a dedicated light.
I think that a dedicated light should not be necessary, since we have programmable RGB LEDs. But AFAIR a switch should be there, at least for power saving!

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Silent-Hunter

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Mind you, I want to be able to shut off mobile data, but still be able to send and recieve telephone calls. I hope that will be possible.
 

Librelism

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Mind you, I want to be able to shut off mobile data, but still be able to send and recieve telephone calls
That would certainly be nice as an option too, but the ability to shut the mobile modem completely off would be really nice. That's one of the features that I'm also looking forward to in the Librem 5.
 

levi

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Mind you, I want to be able to shut off mobile data, but still be able to send and recieve telephone calls. I hope that will be possible.
That'd be tricky. You could stop the device talking pre-LTE/4G and UMTS/3G and rely on 2G which will be more than enough for texts and old fashioned mobile calls (the new hifi calls rely on 3+G I think, but I've never knowingly made one of those myself yet).

But even if you only have the 2G modem on it'll still have to ping towers to advertise which towers if can see so the network can route incoming calls to your pyra. So even if you shut off mobile data, the owners of the towers can still track your location, and as we've seen then be compelled to tell various levels of government about you whether they care or not. If you don't want them to track you you're going to have to turn that chip off entirely (which I believe is possible, though I've not checked the schematics recently), and be very careful about where you connect to wifi. In practice I believe MITMing and dodgy javascript are more of a threat to my private data and personal liberty than the government is who just know where my meatspace body is, by the way.

In practice though, I suspect downing whichever network interface is attached to the data modem is probably the simplest way of forbidding mobile data. The chip can then connect over whatever radio encodings it likes, but can't inject IP packets into the system's network. It could self originate packets possibly, and this may happen if it decides to download an incoming MMS (picture message), or it initiates a hi-fi audio call (if it even supports that natively), but both of these probably come out of your calltime/text budget anyway, assuming it's the money that you actually care about.
 

Elw3

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Mind you, I want to be able to shut off mobile data, but still be able to send and recieve telephone calls. I hope that will be possible.
What the heck does that even mean?
You want to dissable it and still use it?

Unlike a phone the modem in the pyra is not deeply woven into the system.
Consider it more as some kind of USB mobile data modem, it runs its own software not controllable from the pyra OS.
But you can PHYISICALLY disconect it by killing its power lines using a software controlled switch.
 

Silent-Hunter

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I think you're all misunderstanding. I just want to be able to tell it to not be connected to the Internet. I still want the modem to be on and connected to 3G for phone calls (2G is discontinued here).

It's not out of privacy concerns, if I need privacy I will turn the modem off entirely, or even the whole Pyra.
 

Elw3

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Well you need to tell it to connect in the first place. Sooooo
 

Librelism

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I get what Silent Hunter is saying. They want to be able to call, while still ensuring they're not using up mobile data for internet applications.

My case is different, since I'm looking to ensure I can completely power off the modem, understanding that it means I won't receive any calls while it's off. As long as I can do that, then I would be fine with keeping my preorder of the mobile edition as planned.
 

Librelism

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Has this hardware switch for the modem been confirmed in any publications or another thread? Not that I don't believe you, just want to read up on it.
 

Grench

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That'd be tricky. You could stop the device talking pre-LTE/4G and UMTS/3G and rely on 2G which will be more than enough for texts and old fashioned mobile calls (the new hifi calls rely on 3+G I think, but I've never knowingly made one of those myself yet).

But even if you only have the 2G modem on it'll still have to ping towers to advertise which towers if can see so the network can route incoming calls to your pyra. So even if you shut off mobile data, the owners of the towers can still track your location, and as we've seen then be compelled to tell various levels of government about you whether they care or not. If you don't want them to track you you're going to have to turn that chip off entirely (which I believe is possible, though I've not checked the schematics recently), and be very careful about where you connect to wifi. In practice I believe MITMing and dodgy javascript are more of a threat to my private data and personal liberty than the government is who just know where my meatspace body is, by the way.

In practice though, I suspect downing whichever network interface is attached to the data modem is probably the simplest way of forbidding mobile data. The chip can then connect over whatever radio encodings it likes, but can't inject IP packets into the system's network. It could self originate packets possibly, and this may happen if it decides to download an incoming MMS (picture message), or it initiates a hi-fi audio call (if it even supports that natively), but both of these probably come out of your calltime/text budget anyway, assuming it's the money that you actually care about.
Here's a thought... The thing runs on Debian Linux. Open up iptables and set rules to limit what data goes to which ports from what programs via the network connection (WAN) vs WiFi vs other (ethernet via USB?).
 

Letalis Sonus

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I thought it was a hardware button so it specifically couldn't be altered by software underhandedly
No, but there was supposed to be a LED directly connected to the power line being switched off that will always show you when it is powered up. AFAIK the switching is just being handled by a simple transistor controlled through a GPIO pin.
 

pmprog

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No, but there was supposed to be a LED directly connected to the power line being switched off that will always show you when it is powered up. AFAIK the switching is just being handled by a simple transistor controlled through a GPIO pin.
Ah, so that's why I thought we had both a switch and an LED. I knew there was a physical measure to prevent unexpected usage
 
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