Edward Snowden reveals how your phone keeps tabs on you

The whistleblower tells podcaster Joe Rogan how mass surveillance works

Edward Snowden: ‘Whenever the phone is turned on there’s a record of your presence at that place that is being made and created by companies.’ Photograph: Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras/File/AP Photo

Edward Snowden: ‘Whenever the phone is turned on there’s a record of your presence at that place that is being made and created by companies.’ Photograph: Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras/File/AP Photo

 

Comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan is for his mix of libertarian and conservative views combined with enthusiasm for subjects like UFOs and Bigfoot. He’s not my cup of tea, but his latest episode – an interview with whistle-blower Edward Snowden – has an interesting part on smartphone surveillance.

“Neither Android nor the iPhone are especially good at protecting your privacy,” Snowden says to Rogan. Snowden drives home the message that all phones are transmitting, even when the screen is off and they’re “doing nothing”. All phones are constantly connected to their nearest tower, he adds.

It’s worth being reminded that the IMEI (international mobile station equipment identity) and the IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) are unique identifiers that can track your phone anywhere in the world – and the IMEI is burned into the phone so it exists regardless of sim swapping.

“Whenever the phone is turned on there’s a record of your presence at that place that is being made and created by companies. It does not need to be kept for ever, and in fact there’s no good argument for it to be kept for ever but these companies see that as valuable information.”

“That’s how bulk collection – which is the government’s euphemism for mass surveillance – works,” he says. Just another thing to keep you awake at night.