Christopher Soghoian: How to avoid surveillance with the phone in your pocket

Very interesting talk by Christopher Soghoian on a 2015 TED Conference, about phone wiretapping and privacy.


Who is listening in on your phone calls? On a landline, it could be anyone, says privacy activist Christopher Soghoian, because surveillance backdoors are built into the phone system by default, to allow governments to listen in. But then again, so could a foreign intelligence service … or a criminal.

Christopher Soghoian is a privacy researcher and activist.

He is currently the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Christopher is also one of the early proponents of the Do Not Track (DNT) HTTP header field, that asks a web application to stop tracking individual users.

Here the talk:

Some important points of the speech

We live in a dangerous time in a dangerous world, and there really are bad people out there. There are terrorists and other serious national security threats that I suspect we all want the FBI and the NSA to monitor. But those surveillance features come at a cost. The reason for that is that there is no such thing as a terrorist laptop, or a drug dealer’s cell phone. We all use the same communications devices. What that means is that if the drug dealers’ telephone calls or the terrorists’ telephone calls can be intercepted, then so can the rest of ours, too. And I think we really need to ask: Should a billion people around the world be using devices that are wiretap friendly?

[…] in 2004, the surveillance system built into the network of Vodafone Greece – Greece’s largest telephone company – was compromised by an unknown entity, and that feature, the surveillance feature, was used to wiretap the Greek Prime Minister and members of the Greek cabinet. The foreign government or hackers who did that were never caught.

And so, my message to you is this: We need to use these tools. We need to secure our telephone calls. We need to secure our text messages. I want you to use these tools. I want you to tell your loved ones, I want you to tell your colleagues: Use these encrypted communications tools. Don’t just use them because they’re cheap and easy, but use them because they’re secure.

Published: January 20 2016