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Protesting? Use Your Cell Phone Wisely

Updated on May 26, 2015

Powerful Ways to Use Your Phone

When you are coordinating your protests over social media, remember that the authorities are probably monitoring your social media channels, and they have all kinds of ways of making your life miserable once the protest starts. Fortunately, there are many ways to use your cell phones to make sure that everyone can stay safe and informed, and a bit of prior organization can make everyone's life much easier, and keep the protest from disintegrating.


One way to keep your protest organized is to use a website that is not immediately obvious to the authorities. If you search for a private organizing site, you will find many meeting schedulers. Use one of these to keep track of who is coming, and make sure only people known to the organizers can sign up for it.

Assign one or more people to monitor local fire and police scanners. Again, a search will help you find and monitor these channels. These monitors should stay away from the main area of the protest so that they are not arrested, and instead use social media or some of the apps listed below to broadcast information about the movements of local law enforcement.

Choosing a Cell Phone

Use an inexpensive phone with a no-contract service (one where you have to buy cards for airtime) and do not keep your real contacts in this phone. Instead, use aliases for your contacts (random numbers are the most secure; I usually use five random digits of π) and use an app to encrypt your data. Police have been known to confiscate phones, and even destroy them, so you don't want your contacts and your nice cell phone to suffer that fate. Instead, leave your main phone at home.

Apps Everyone at the Protest Should Have

  • FireChat keeps you connected even if the authorities shut off cell phone and Wi-Fi service by passing messages to nearby phones using BlueTooth.
  • Waze lets you mark obstacles, traffic jams, and barricades, kettling, and other problems.
  • Shouty lets you broadcast voice messages to anyone who can stream audio via the internet.
  • BlackBerry Messenger allows you to send secure messages.
  • I'm Getting Arrested notifies someone you designate that you are being arrested, simply by holding down an on-screen button. Set this up in advance, and remember to encrypt your phone.
  • ToiletFinder (ok, this is obvious, but necessary!). Crowd-sourced information, so check it out in advance.
  • CopWatch records video and automatically uploads it to YouTube.
  • ObscuraCam pixelates faces in photos and videos.
  • HotSpot Shield secures your connection.
  • Orbot - Tor for Android
  • IFTTT is too complex to be explained here, but there are a number of ways to use this to automatically archive data, send text messages, and even use your location to trigger an event. With the release of their "DO" app, IFTTT is an essential tool.


  • When you have your spare cell phone, delete all unnecessary apps. If necessary, get a technologically-savvy friend to "root" an Android phone.
  • Fake apps have been distributed to monitor and spy on protesters, so be sure that you are downloading the right app from a trusted source. Don't download anything you don't recognize.
  • When an app asks for your email, give it a spare email account. You should always have a few handy, with real-sounding pseudonyms.


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