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It's difficult to have useful conversations about mobile tracking when people say "your phone / mobile device tracks you". The phone is just a computer.

The networks that you connect to can spy on you---your cellular network, bluetooth, wifi, etc. To help mitigate these threats, you can disable those communications until you are in a safe place that you don't mind others knowing about. This can really only be guaranteed with a hardware switch---iOS now lies to its users when they ask to disable those communications, for example.

The software running on your device spys on you: the operating system itself often spies; the apps you install often spy. This is the fault of the individual _authors_---_they_ are the problem. Consider using free/libre software that empowers you and serves _you_ rather than its creators; it's much harder to hide secrets in free software. On Android, consider using only free software available in F-Droid. We also need fully free mobile operating systems, like Replicant and hopefully Purism's Librem 5 that is still under development.

Call out those that do harm---don't veil and protect them using statements like "your phone tracks you". Talks about the specific issues. Demand change and have the courage to reject them entirely. That involves inconvenience and sacrifice, but if we're strong now, then in the near future, perhaps we won't have to make any sacrifices, much like the fully free GNU/Linux system desktops we have today.
Daniel Taylor @RandomDamage

@mikegerwitz Since one of the ways you are tracked is by which cell towers you connect to, which is in the fundamental protocol and purpose of the phone, I think you might be a bit overly optimistic.

The only way to absolutely avoid being tracked with a cell phone is to have it completely turned off (battery out), or not have it on you. Which rather defeats the purpose of having a cell phone to begin with.

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@randomdamage This is why a hardware switch (like the Purism Librem 5) is ideal.

It's possible to measure whether or not a phone is attempting a connection (emitting radio waves), so someone can determine whether the phone is lying to do if you put it in e.g. airplane mode. Manufacturers have incentive to have airplane mode do what it claims to do since there are FAA regulations that customers have to adhere to when on certain flights. Another option is to place your phone in a bag that acts as a Faraday cage; I have one (though I haven't used it in some time).

This doesn't prevent malware, malicious OS's, or targeted attacks from modifying phone software, though. But for your average phone user concerned about privacy with a modest threat model, something like airplane mode may be good enough.

If your threat model is higher, you probably know what more you should be doing.

@mikegerwitz even with hardware switches there's a need for verification or trust, but a working hardware switch does get you most of the benefit with a lot less trouble.

@randomdamage I agree. The nice thing about hardware switches is that almost anyone could open up their device and observe that there is a physical disconnect and rest assured that no software update or malware could ever change that---physical access to the device is needed.

Of course, that wouldn't prevent hardware issues from wear or defects. Maybe the hardware switch becomes a bit floppy over time and slides without physical force, or wears inside and shorts.

We'll need to only trust simple, clearly built switches that do nothing fancy or creative and are built out of quality materials.