I have an announcement to make. I am no longer going to pay a cell phone bill. The savings will be significant and I am excited about that. Last month was the last time I visited my carrier’s retail store to make a payment on my pre-paid account, and I don’t anticipate returning ever again.
Readers here know that I use my phone in a very non-traditional manner. I have written about that strategy at length in two different articles which can be seen here and here. I encourage you to visit those posts for a more in-depth look at setting up a phone with privacy and security goals in mind. In short, I have never used the carrier assigned phone number for anything, instead I use VoIP apps to handle all of my texting and calling needs. Encrypted communication apps like Wire and Signal handle the bulk of my communications with the majority of people I keep in touch with. The rest of my contacts have a compartmentalized Sudo number to reach me. More about Sudo’s amazing privacy solution for communications can be see here and here.
I could continue paying for cell service, but why? At home I use a properly configured Protectli Vault. It acts as a high-powered router that is capable of running pfSense 24 hours a day. It has low-power consumption with great specs. I have mine configured to run my PIA VPN with an absolute kill switch. This small box now protects every device on my network (even guests’ mobile devices). It blocks all incoming connections and forces a VPN on all outgoing Internet traffic. Because all of my communication apps only need WiFi to work, my phone is in airplane mode while at home and never connected to a cellular network.
Away from home, I have other “trusted” WiFi networks that I can connect to throughout the day. Again, the phone remains in airplane mode and never needs a cellular network to connect to. In an emergency situation if I am away from Wifi connectivity and need to connect the phone to check messages and make a VoIP call of some type, I carry a Verizon JetPack that can be turned on temporarily for the purpose. The JetPack allows the phone to connect to WiFi, conduct whatever business I need to, and then be turned off until I am again within range of a trusted WiFi network.
Using a phone in this manner may not appeal to everyone. I enjoy the quiet time between trusted networks when I am not receiving alert tones and notifications from my device. A recent blog post on “Eliminating the Push Diet” inspired me to rethink how often I really need to connect to the world, and consider how much data I will no longer be sharing as a result of taking this idea to another level.
The foundation to this strategy is built on utilizing VoIP services for all of your calling needs. As I mentioned, people closest to me are already using encrypted methods (Wire, Signal) to communicate with me. This allows me to always have a way to be reached via WiFi from anywhere in the world. For anyone else that chooses not to use these privacy and security enhancing tools, the phone number they have to reach me is one of my Sudo numbers, also VoIP, which only needs WiFi to be used. All of these methods can also be used with cellular data, but with the availability of reliable VPN protected WiFi networks in my life, I see no use to pay for cellular service anymore.
The impact to the people I communicate with has been minimal. Sure, there are times when I am “dark” throughout the day (not reachable)…but I enjoy that “control” over how I use my device and when I am ready to receive and respond to messages. I am no longer a “24/7 hotline” for people to reach me, and I enjoy that a great deal. The vast majority of time I am connected to WiFi somewhere though. Overall, I enjoy thinking about the staggering amount of data associated with my phone’s location that is no longer collected, shared via cellular networks, and tracked over a period of time. Encrypted communications keeps that type of data off of the grid as well, which is important to a person who takes things to the extreme for the sake of privacy.
My communication strategy has evolved over time and will continue to do so. Part One and Part Two of this series laid the foundation, and now I am controlling things to an even greater extent by eliminating the cellular carrier from the equation. I anticipate using my iPhone in this manner for the next year until my new phone arrives in 2019. That’s right, I have already purchased my next phone, the Librem 5 from a company called Purism. The phone will run Linux only, and is built from the ground up with privacy and security at its core by a company that understands how to do it right. If you are interested in reading more about this amazing device being developed now, check it out here. For a list of privacy enhancing apps that I use on my phone, I have written about some of those here.
If you are one of the people who still has a phone number associated with my name in your address book, you are using a compartmentalized number that is designated for all of my “miscellaneous” contacts who are not yet using secure/private alternatives. I encourage you to contact me after downloading Wire so that we can continue our conversation off the grid. Until next time…I am “going dark” now…