Anti-tracking smartphone pouch is a sign of the times

Anti-tracking smartphone pouch is a sign of the times

Summary: Are you the type the tapes over the camera on your MacBook? If so, you might also want to store your iPhone in a radio-free pouch when it's not in use. Big brother is watching.

Anti-tracking smartphone pouch is a sign of the times - Jason O'Grady

With the recent revelation that the NSA can remotely enable the microphone on your Android phone and laptop and that the Feds are believed to be behind the recent malware attack that exposes the identity of Tor users, the privacy news gets worse every day. 

If you're concerned about the Fed (or anyone for that matter) tracking your whereabouts, you're going to have to do more than put a piece of gaffer's tape over your MacBook's built-in camera. Your smartphone is the world's best spying device, and most people willing take them everywhere they go.  

A new Kickstarter project is a sign of the times: the OFF Pocket. Billed as a "privacy accessory for mobile phones," the simple black pouch claims to be able to shield over 100dB (which is better than other methods, like sticking your smartphone in a cocktail shaker (~90dB) or in a refrigerator (~85dB). Seriously, people do this. 

OFF Pocket blocks frequencies between 800MHz – 2.4 GHz, CDMA/GSM/DCS/PHS/3G/4G, WiFi (2.4GHz), Bluetooth (2.4Ghz), and GPS (1-2GHz) and is carrier, hardware, and OS agnostic.

If your phone has a removable battery, taking it out is your best way to stay off the grid, but iPhone users don't have that luxury thanks to its fixed battery design. If you're in the tinfoil hat camp, the OFF Pocket may be just what you're looking for. (And no, turning off your phone isn't enough). 

Since the $75 pledge level is already sold out, it'll take $85 (only 53 left) to snag an OFF Pocket in October. The Kickstarter project will be funded if $35,000 is pledged by August 27, 2013, and it has already raised around $21,000 in its first three days. Which tells a story of its own.

Here's the obligatory demo video from the Kickstarter project:

Topics: Apple, Android, Google, iPhone, Privacy, Security, Smartphones

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  • It'd have been completely funded the first day

    if it also came with the "off" tinfoil hat.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Johnny . . .

      . . . I will gladly provide you a hat that will protect you against NBC&E, but also that voice in your head (Ballmer?)
    • So

      You aren't concerned with the fact that the Feds can remotely activate our phones? And before someone starts bleating about how some of us must have something to hide, no that's not it. It's the fact that we have the right to privacy and our government has been doing everything they can to erode that right and other rights. Only the blind - willfully or otherwise - are unable to see this.
      • Our government is also trying to make it legal for us to be spied on

        John Key (the worst sort of "Tory" prime minister you could imagine) has even found a scapegoat to keep our attention elsewhere! As athynz says, not having anything to hide isn't the point.
        Laraine Anne Barker
      • Well, let's apply a little sense to this

        I know how hard that is for some, but are about 350 million US Citizens plus .. how many NSA/CIA Analysts would it take to listen in to all those phones?
        If they have computers do it.. then it is going to look for keys, words, in different languages maybe.. the machine will only alert if it finds a key it is looking for...
        So, want to have fun, start every phone call with "Allahu akbar", even if you are Catholic, then talk to your friend about the kardasians.. it will drive the analysts that have to listen to you crazy.
        This is only if you really think they can turn on,and listen to, every cell microphone. I believe that unless you give them cause to notice you, you might as well be invisible.
  • Flight mode??

    Flight mode turns off all radio. Or, turn the device off.

    Why pouch?
    • Turning off doesn't always

      turn everything off. I set the alarm and turn it off yet it still alarms at the time I set. Turning flight mode on may help but if you have been hacked who's to say that the code doesn't turn on the radio at some time.

      Each phone may operate slightly different from the next and testing is probably beyond most people's capability or understanding.
    • If turning the device OFF is not enough

      How is flight/airplane mode supposed to be? IOW the Feds can turn the device on remotely it stands to reason that they can also turn off flight/airplane mode as well.
    • Flight Mode doesn't turn off Wi-Fi

      During a trip to Istanbul earlier this year, I didn't want to risk running up horrendous roaming charges but I did want the facilities available on my Samsung Galaxy S3 offline so I switched flight mode on before the trip and turned it off when I got home. The hotel where I stayed in Istanbul had free wi-fi and I was amazed to dicover that, even in flight mode, I could browse the internet using my S3 via wi-fi. Obviously I can only make this statement for the Galaxy S3 but it's worth checking if you think flight mode is the amswer.
  • interesting

    Don't these people know iPhone also operates in the 5 GHz band? Or, is that reserved for the feds, as a backup? :)

    Anyway, this stuff's claims needs to be verified before purchase -- otherwise you end up with pretty much useless pouch, that is not even pretty.
  • Samsung Galaxy S3

    and presumably S4 provide a simple way to turn the radios on or off selectively without going into the Settings menu. Just swipe the status display down from the top (except in apps that steal the status display part of the screen) and touch to toggle on/off Wifi, Bluetooth, and GPS, and Mobile Data, along with some other non-radio-related options. There is nothing for mobile voice, but the same menu is another route to Airplane mode. If the pouch is really needed, there must be a way to send signals to a RECEIVER that is still on and command it to turn the other radios on. I already turn wifi off except at home or in range of a trusted wifi (such as my portable hotspot from another company), and turn GPS off except when I need it (and who needs it at home except when preparing to go on a trip and the router app needs a starting location?), but I do this mainly to save power.

    Has the pouch been tested so that, if the radios are LEFT ON inside the pouch, the reflected signals do not confuse the receivers, or overheat the phone?
    • turn it off?

      I suspect that you are not up on the latest techniques the "authorities" have for turning phones on remotely without the user's knowledge. You should watch a few episodes of CSI where the cops turn suspects' phones on remotely, or even only get the cell towers to report where the particular target phone is. After you see what they can do you'll be in line to buy one of these pockets.

      And remember this. You may say I'm talking Hollywood fantasy, and I'll answer you this, "What's fantasy today is reality tomorrow morning where cops' desires are for tracking suspects."
  • Turn it off

    Yes, believe it or not, powering off your phone fully (taking out the battery is NOT necessary) is more effective than putting your phone in a tinfoil bag. If you bought one of these you're a moron.
    • My thoughts exactly...

      I was going to post that you should simply turn it off as well....after all, when in this pouch, it is essentially off anyway.
    • Powering off

      may turn some functions off but not all. Set your alarm and turn the phone off. Does it still alarm? If so then maybe turning it off doesn't do all that you think.
      • Off is off

        Maybe it's possible to set an alarm to turn it on (doubt it), but even so, the receivers and transmitter are certainly inactive and not drawing any power or able to communicate so it couldn't get turned on by an external radio signal. Let's not let our paranoia get carried away.
        • off?

          These things are engineered to be turned on by whoever has the "authority" to do it. this includes everyone from the designer, manufacturer, service provider, and the police (with warrant) and hackers (no warrant needed, just good hacking skills).
    • P.T. Barnum's rule

      A sucker is born every minute - assuming of course that the underlying theory of the Feds being able to turn on the A/V capabilities of a mobile device is fiction. Given the underhanded way our government acts these days I'm leaning more towards the fact that not only can they access the A/V capabilities of a mobile device but that they already are doing so. Not that I plan on buying one of those pouches but I can understand the motivation for people to do so. In fact it would not surprise me that they could turn on a mobile device at a whim.
    • Yea just let the battery go empty

      because that is exactly what the phone will be furiously doing inside that bag looking for signal.
  • But, in the pouch...

    isn't the phone going to eat its battery up searching for a cell tower (if it isn't turned off)???