Since 18 July, youth protests have spread across Thailand. At every protest, uniformed policemen stand guard and plain-cloth policemen monitor.
Given the suspicion over how the authorities exercise power, it would be wise for protesters to take precautions by securing your smartphone.
Keep It Secure
When things go south, your phone may be confiscated and used to incriminate you and your friends, if they are also involved in the protests.
Your phone contains all sorts of data that the police may consider “intelligence” or even “evidence” to charge you and your friends with crimes.
Contacts, chat logs, photos, and location datas are just some examples of what they can use against you.
Beware of Biometrics
We all have passwords on our phones. But these days, smartphones come with biometrics capabilities such as fingerprint unlock and face unlock, which is very convenient.
But if you’re going to a protest, the first thing you should do is disable the biometric locks and rely on passwords only. This is because legally the police can force you to unlock your phone with your face or fingerprint ID, but they can’t force you to reveal your password.
So, protect yourself.
For iPhone users, disable Face ID (face unlock) or Touch ID (fingerprint unlock), depending on your iPhone model.
For Android users, the settings vary, depending on your phone’s manufacturer and model. Generally, you should be able to disable fingerprint or face unlock by going into Security or Lock Screen in the Settings app.
If you absolutely need to use biometrics for whatever reason, it’s useful to know that some phones allow you to disable biometrics in an emergency.
For iPhones, when the phone is locked, press and hold the power button (located on the right side or top for older iPhones) and either of the volume buttons simultaneously for about three seconds. Then, press Cancel. The next time you try to unlock, the phone will disable Face ID/Touch ID and require you to enter the passcode.
On Android phones, you’ll need to enable the lockdown option first by going to Settings > Security/Lock Screen > Lock Screen Preferences then enable “Show lockdown option.”
When you want to temporarily use biometrics or any smart lock features, hold down the power button until the power menu appears then press Lockdown.
Minimize Your Digital Footprint
As secure as your phone may be, the worst case is you will be detained and your phone will be confiscated. Therefore, it’s best to minimize the activities and digital footprint on your phone before and during the protest, in case your phone is taken.
Here are the steps you may take:
Before going to the protest
- Backup your phone (here’s how to do it in Android and iOS).
- Clear all web browsing history and cookies and log off from all social media applications if possible.
- Delete any private chat which you deem to be risky.
- Delete all location history in Google Maps.
At the protest
- Make sure Location is turned off (Android and iOS).
- Keep your phone usage to a minimum. If possible, turn on Airplane mode.
- If you need to use your phone to communicate with your friends, make sure you use a messaging app with secure encryption such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and iMessage.
- If you need to use your phone to browse the web at the protest, conceal your activities by using a VPN, Tor browser, or at least browse in Incognito or Private Browsing mode.
If things go south
Or, if you have something on your phone that could incriminate you, you might need to ask your friend to erase all data on your phone. Give them your account details, ask them to check on you regularly. If you don’t reply by a cut-off time (or if they find you at a suspicious place based on the location you shared), they can remotely wipe your phone (Android and iOS).