A group of people with their fists raised in the air and gathered to protest.

A group of peaceful protestors raising their fists in solidarity.

This is for you if you are:

– Activist

– Protestor

– Journalist

– Family Member/Friend of an attendee

Threat Model or Risk Profile

Understand your potential threats, vulnerabilities and what you can control to help defend against these threats. Your threat model or risk profile depends on whether you are an activist, protestor, journalist, public figure, or a family member or friend of an activist/protestor.

First define threats for you personally something that can inflict harm, such as the police using tear gas, pepper spray, batons etc on protestors. This is a form of physical threat, and given the current environment, a real possibility if you are out at a protest.

Other threats to consider, loss of property, possible detainment or arrest/imprisonment, assault & sexual assault.

All these threats are part of your potential threat model, and it is different for every person. You can control some factors, by being organized in your group, about what happens if you are separated, meet-up points, communication methods, and what you do in each of these scenarios. You can reduce your risk if you plan-ahead and are prepared for the best to worst case scenario.

Secure Communications

Select a secure communication channel you and your group/team and support will use to coordinate and communicate. Recommended apps: Signal or Wire. Please see this article for details on secure communications.

Consider purchasing a pre-paid disposable phone prior to the protest/march. Often called a burner phone, this device is not linked to your social media, or you specifically. If you can purchase the burner phone in cash or with a prepaid credit card, even better. Use this phone for communications and coordination with your group/team, not your personal phone. Be sure to pack a portable phone charger.

Put your phone on airplane mode during the event to minimize surveillance and tracking by law enforcement.

Set a strong screen lock code. Remove fingerprint and facial recognition unlock capabilities in case you are arrested, detained or your phone is taken. Disabling Face ID is also a practical matter, as you may have a face mask on during a protest, and cannot unlock your phone while wearing it.

You want to remove any biometric identifiers from your phone, such as fingerprints or facial recognition. Under current U.S. law a memorized passcode provides a stronger legal position if you go to court and are compelled to unlock or decrypt your device.

Technology companies have advanced facial recognition software, and use biometric identifiers that can be noted even with a facial covering or mask. For example, eyes and cheekbones increase the trackability and surveillance of those in the street.

Beware of CCTV cameras when checking your phone. Cameras can capture sensitive details, such as your passcode, phone numbers, contacts, if you’re unlocking your phone near a camera.

Social Media Accounts

Delink accounts from devices, as they may give access to sensitive data for anyone who takes your device. These are accounts that have access to your phone, such as email, social media, mobile banking, messaging, dating apps.

For any accounts your device has access to, revoke authorization for your device. You can do this by logging into your accounts and deleting the device.

Do this for Google, email accounts, social media (delete the apps or log out of all) anything that is linked to your device.

Google – https://myaccount.google.com/device-activity

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=security&section=sessions&view

Twitter – https://twitter.com/settings/sessions

Yahoo – https://login.yahoo.com/account/activity

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/accounts/manage_access/  and https://help.instagram.com/1020536697967549?helpref=related

iCloud Account – https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205064

Encrypt your devices and reduce the information and data on your devices, before you go out. Create secure and encrypted backups of all your data and keep them in a safe place, which would not be found if you are searched, arrested, or detained.

Share your passwords and online accounts with a trusted person or emergency contact who is not attending the protest or event; This is a friend who can help remote wipe your phone or secure your accounts if you are detained/arrested or your phone is taken. Keep in mind, any communications intercepted or any change in your typical communication could alert authorities or be used as additional evidence against you.

Legal Action & Considerations

Agree in your group on any actions to be taken if you are arrested. Ex: account suspensions, remote device wiping, so that if you are arrested or detained there is no data on your phone. Ensure you have contact information for legal aid and legal observers or point of contact for if you are arrested. Write the legal aid number on your arm in permanent marker.

Photography and Privacy

Any photos or videos from the protest do not/not post photos directly from your phone. Take a screenshot with your phone of the photo to ensure EXIF data (details about location of the photo and your phone) is not in the photo.

Blur faces of protestors to and bystanders and any other identifiable features. To protect yourself and others from surveillance, best practice is to blur any identifiable clothing, colored hair, tattoos or markings.

You can also take photos without unlocking your device, and this may be the safest method for documenting anything you see or do during a protest.

How You Organize

Organize your group/team offline. Use Signal or secure app to coordinate your plan for the day, how you will communicate, supplies needed, etc.

Try not to accept an invite or advertise your attendance to the event on Facebook or Twitter as it is viewable by law enforcement.

Car or caravan protests are popular at the moment, to encourage social distancing and as a way to stay safe. They’re great to protect against COVID-19, however, protestors cars might be monitored by an Automated License Plate Reader (ALPRs). Consider walking or take a bicycle to the protests to avoid invasive surveillance.

Use your best judgment and understand your threat model so that you can make the right decision for you.

Coordinate your meeting places for during and after the event, prior to attending. Follow your plan, and have contingencies if someone is detained or arrested. Ensure you have legal observers, legal counsel, bail fund organizers and emergency contact protocols.

Clothing & Protecting Your Identity

Hide your face with a mask, glasses, bandana, etc, both for health reasons (COVID-19), and to protect yourself from surveillance cameras and law enforcement (LE) tracking efforts. No guarantees, but face masks can help minimize LE ability to track you using facial recognition technology.

Cover up your distinctive markings, colored hair, tattoos, piercings, and brand names on clothing. Consider wearing black clothes and using electrical tape (black tape) to cover logos and brands on your bags and clothes.

Consider keeping an extra shirt or clothes to change into when leaving the protest (do a quick change). Swap out your shirt and hoodie for a colored t-shirt, hat or scarf (depending on weather). Harder to track you if you’re wearing something different.

Carry cash instead of cards. Your debit and credit cards identify you. Use cash for any public transit (bike or walk to event if possible) and for supplies.

Final Thoughts & Resources

Keep in mind this is general guidance and may not apply to the event you attend. Plan, be prepared, communicate with your group or team, ensure you have contingencies for if the worst happens.

If you need specific help, information or guidance, here are some other resources:

– Digital Security Tips and Training  https://digitalfirstaid.org/en/

– Smartphone Guide https://securityinabox.org/en/guide/smartphones

– Surveillance Self Defense from EFF https://ssd.eff.org/en-

Finally, please be safe, take care of each other. If you need help beyond guides, and would like customized training for mobile security, surveillance, physical or digital security, book a call with us here: https://lockdownyourlife.as.me/strategy