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Is privacy on decentralized, wireless communication even a thing?

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RFI-EMI-GUY

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The hardest part of getting a Part 90 license is the cost. :D You have to get the signoff of a frequency coordinator, which is above the standard FCC filing fees. And then there's the paperwork... :p Not fun, but not impossible. It's much easier to pay someone else to do it for you if you can afford it.
You don't need to pay a coordinator to license any of the several VHF Low, VHF Hi, and UHF itinerant frequencies. Only FCC filing and regulatory fee.
 

littona

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You don't need to pay a coordinator to license any of the several VHF Low, VHF Hi, and UHF itinerant frequencies. Only FCC filing and regulatory fee.
§90.138 Applications for itinerant frequencies.
An application for authority to conduct an itinerant operation in the Industrial/Business Pool must be restricted to use of itinerant frequencies or other frequencies not designated for permanent use and need not be accompanied by evidence of frequency coordination. Users should be aware that no interference protection is provided from other itinerant operations.
 

CivSIGID

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Giving us a detailed description of what you want would help a whole lot. Do understand that the "one with everything" isn't going to be free or easy. When describing what you want, it would help greatly if you supplied some information on your budget for such a system.
Ha, my budget is that of a dirt poor college student for now. A part 90 setup would be beyond my means and justification for quite some time. I have two Retevis DMR radios and a UV-5R (the latter I do not use for all intents and purposes), if anything I wish there was an allocation where I could use the DMR radios in simplex mode with rules similar to other public band. It seems that there will likely never be a permit to do this.

The cellular network is a great tool and a monumental accomplishment that I admire very much. The problem I have with it is that the users do not own it, and have no express right to use it (or right to their data). That's part and parcel of a private company, which I accept conditionally.
 

n1das

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The 900MHz Motorola DTRs and DLRs are a good way to go for local simplex ops with digital radios. While technically not encrypted, they can be made very secure and are completely scanner proof.

I am also curious about why the concern for privacy in the first place.
 

CivSIGID

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+1 to everything you just said, save for the following:

And RADIO ARTS????? REALLY???? Appliance operators dude. There is ZERO art to taking a 30 dollar Baofeng radio, throwing some frequencies in it and letting its build in roger beep make everyone listening to the repeater that has been licensed more then 12 days mad about needing to hear that nonsense.

I hope you aren't trying to paint me with that brush. I strive to be a courteous operator, for one, and I'm an ETA Certified electronics technician as well. I'd like to think that even if all I had was a UV-5R that I would still be contributing to the community as a humble learner with a knowledge foundation of electronics theory, implementation, and associated systems. I do agree that a Baofeng is not a serious radio. Any operator relying on one should look to move on ASAP. I know it's cliche with the community, but we all start somewhere and a courteous reminder to turn off roger beep during repeater operation goes a long way to making a good operator out of a wide-eyed beginner. Honest mistakes happen, and people don't know what they don't know. There IS a difference between "self-policing", and intolerant nit-picking of new licensees who are operating perfectly legally, but in a way that others don't like or aren't used to. I hear accounts of the latter excused in the spirit of the former too often.
 

CivSIGID

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Remember that every time you transmit you give away the location of the transmitter to anybody with the right equipment. Encryption can't prevent that.

Totally agree, but I also think that if that were a major concern a lot of the usual suspects (ie, police, military, alphabet agencies) would have adopted and would be using a lot more technology to mitigate that threat. It's not really a concern of mine.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you'd need at least two very directionally sensitive discrete direction finding receivers placed well apart and networked to accurately map a transmission. That's IF the transmitter isn't moving, is transmitting for a long period of time OR at regular intervals from the same location, and that the recievers (or their operators) are intelligent enough to reject multipath interference in an urban environment. Good "OPSEC" when keying up nullifies most of this.
 

CivSIGID

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The 900MHz Motorola DTRs and DLRs are a good way to go for local simplex ops with digital radios. While technically not encrypted, they can be made very secure and are completely scanner proof.

I am also curious about why the concern for privacy in the first place.

Agree, those look pretty promising and I'd be interested in experimenting with that kind of technology. The short range is one big drawback though.

And no other reason than; because we should be able to. The constitution really is law, and the spirit of that law is that we are free to conduct our lives as we see fit without suspicion of malice. You wouldn't tolerate the ability of strangers or of 'designated enforcement authorities' to peer over your shoulder or listen to every word you spoke in real world conversations, so I'm not sure why anyone would be content to tolerate it in electronic communications. I guess the ability of monitors to be "there" without really being physically present is pretty disarming to most folks.

This also goes back to my understanding that the FCC manages a natural resource on the public's behalf. No other regulatory agency charged with protection and management of natural resources acts like they own said resources, and they sure don't monopolize the resource and sell select portions of it to the highest bidder while the common people are left to make do with restrictions on its use and steep penalties for its misuse. This is to say nothing of the un-democratic nature of executive branch bureaucracies.

"I'm a peaceful, law abiding citizen, and I don't like it" ought to be reason enough.
 

CivSIGID

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GMRS comes closer to your needs. It is a radio service, available to individuals in order to facilitate a variety of communications needs, but does not allow for encrypted transmissions either.

In the end, there is little that is truly secure and private, that would be available to an individual.

If you are not attempting to cover great distances with your communications, perhaps some of the 900 mHz spread spectrum radios may be an option ?

Yep, GMRS is another great option. Probably going to be the route I take from here on out since the price difference between it and Ham isn't as great as it used to be, and the increase in utility is manifold. I can deal with the lack of security since it fulfills my other interest of being operable without subscriber networking. I don't know much about 900MHz, but it's probably time I looked into it.

I would just suggest that your desire for private and secure communications not be the focal point of your reason for seeking a license, as we live in an odd time, and an American who seeks privacy and security can be construed as something other than a typical American citizen.

In this Department of Homeland Security bulletin of 14 May 2021, it states the following...
“Ideologically-motivated violent extremists fueled by perceived grievances, false narratives, and conspiracy theories continue to share information online with the intent to incite violence.”

and further states...
“The use of encrypted messaging by lone offenders and small violent extremist cells may obscure operational indicators that provide specific warning of a pending act of violence”.

In the United States of America in 2021, our personal desires to seek privacy and facilitate our own security can be interpreted by others as suspicious activity, when in fact all we are trying to do is be good Americans.

And man, I wasn't going to go there but THIS... this is multiple levels of f***** up. Are they talking about the groups of communist arsonists that actually used encrypted messaging services to engage in open revolt for over 6 months last year? Probably not. Incite violence? They just up and committed it. All the incitement they ever needed was provided (at partial taxpayer expense) in higher education. If anything their sympathizers appear to be the ones in control now. But no matter what side of the political spectrum we end up on, I think most of us can agree that this sort of crackdown on civil liberties is always bad. It's always self-serving elites; who fear their people, take their rights away, and eventually commit democide, who think things like this are appropriate.

Why wouldn't I want to hide my activities and communications from them?
 
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SmitHans

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First you say this:
One of the major draws to the Ham service and to radio in general for me was the ability to communicate person-to-person without the use of networks in remote environments and under adverse conditions (I guess you could say I got suckered in by the ARRL "last line emcomm" talking points).

Then you say this:
One big sticking point for me is the encryption prohibition. However, that is a separate discussion and absolutely not a can of worms I want to open here -I've seen how certain people get when you bring it up. Frankly, I'm mostly fine with the dedication of service that is intended to promote outreach, research, and openness. The argument that privacy is not what the HA service is for is entirely compelling to me.

So which is it? If you got your license for the "ability to communicate person-to-person without the use of networks in remote environments and under adverse conditions", then maintaining the license maintains this ability.

If you got your license for that reason, but only if it's private, then you are likely correct that Amateur Radio is not for you. But that also raises the question of why you demand privacy in every aspect of your radio use? The gov't. BTW, shares this sentiment, which is why encryption is prohibited in many radio services.

I would be curious as well, because I have met few people who are as distrusting of other people and our government as I am, yet your concern still seems just a bit odd to me.


My next favorite retort is the "use your cellphone" (which is pretty sad to hear from enthusiasts of the radio arts).

There are scant few enthusiasts of radio arts left. There are a fair number here, but in other forums I visit, it seems the majority of people, especially those new to the hobby, seem to only want to buy the cheapest smallest portable radio China makes, and they want to be able to push a button & be heard around the world on all frequencies and modes, but without having to get a license or training. To them I say GTFO.

The only legitimate public concern this should raise is responsible usage of the RF spectrum. I am 100% willing to pay (within reason) for the privilege of operating my own network within the confines of responsibility to the public utility, but there is seemingly no way this can be done. No amount of licensing or permission appears to make this legal. It's like the FCC doesn't know such a thing could even exist. I'm at a loss as to why this is, because it would be trivial to allow any one or all of the Part 95 services to enable digital privacy an approved channel, or to allow personal use in the Part 97 services on a secondary allocation basis.

The prohibition on encryption was meant in part to aid & encourage responsible use of the radio spectrum through transparency. You are less likely to plan out a crime via radio if you know other people can hear you & call the authorities. Or so the thought was.

Part of me thinks that this is due to the snail's pace at which regulatory agencies adapt to technological advances, but part of me also wonders how they haven't (in nearly 90 years) thought about what people might do if the networks fail them and they wish to convey private information wirelessly to trusted parties in range without the possibility of being intercepted and tracked by potential bad actors.

You are right about the pace at which gov't agencies adapt and that is probably alot of it. But based on some interviews I have heard with FCC people (former & current) done by some of these survivalist preppers, my conclusion is that the FCC is pretty confident that we will never suffer the failure of all communication networks to the point that any single person would need their own point to point wireless system outside of what already exists in Amateur, MURS, GMRS, & CB. And with a little pressing, they alluded to the idea that if we ever did reach that point, the FCC would have far bigger worries than going after individuals encrypting communications where such is currently prohibited.
 

SmitHans

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you'd need at least two very directionally sensitive discrete direction finding receivers placed well apart and networked to accurately map a transmission. That's IF the transmitter isn't moving, is transmitting for a long period of time OR at regular intervals from the same location, and that the recievers (or their operators) are intelligent enough to reject multipath interference in an urban environment. Good "OPSEC" when keying up nullifies most of this.

When I was a teenager, one of the things that pushed me into other radio services was CB. I had a CB in my 1st car, and many of my friends had CBs in their cars. When we were bored on weekends, we'd go "foxhunting". We'd pick someone to hide somewhere within a boundary (usually city limit or county lines) and the rest of us would try to find them. The mark would key up periodically, engage in chit chat with the rest of us, but never disclose his location. We would use the signal strength meter on our radios & drive around trying to find him. When he'd key up, we'd look at the meter. We would then drive to a different location, & repeat the process. If the reading was less than last time, we went the other direction. if we wanted to make it harder, we'd let the mark move periodically if he thought people were getting too close to him. It usually took all night, but someone would eventually find him.

Point is, it can be done with 1 receiver and a movable omnidirectional antenna. It can also be done with 1 receiver and a stationary directional antenna. But ya, 2 or more receivers with movable directional antennas make it alot easier. I don't have to hear what is being said to find the person saying it.
 

AK9R

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But no matter what side of the political spectrum we end up on, I think most of us can agree that this sort of crackdown on civil liberties is always bad.
I don't disagree, but this line of conversation will, no doubt, veer us off into a discussion of politics.

This is a radio forum. Let's talk about radios.
 

prcguy

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If someone is running encrypted radios, how do you identify them out of the thousands of other radio signals out there to then find them? And if you can't hear their encrypted transmissions, how would you know they are something that needs finding? Then, what would you do once you found them, assuming they are the ones you are looking for even though you can't hear them?


QUOTE="SmitHans, post: 3554979, member: 237843"]
I don't have to hear what is being said to find the person saying it.
[/QUOTE]
 

alcahuete

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The short range is one big drawback though.


Short range? Here in the Mojave Desert, I have used mine to over 20 miles. I ran out of road or they would have kept going. They hands down talk further than any of my other handheld radios. Don't let the 1w fool you. Of course, using them in a wooded environment or heavy urban environment or something, you aren't going to get anywhere close to that. But they are darn good radios.
 

krokus

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This also goes back to my understanding that the FCC manages a natural resource on the public's behalf. No other regulatory agency charged with protection and management of natural resources acts like they own said resources, and they sure don't monopolize the resource and sell select portions of it to the highest bidder while the common people are left to make do with restrictions on its use and steep penalties for its misuse. This is to say nothing of the un-democratic nature of executive branch bureaucracies.

Many public lands that were supposed to have been maintained in their natural state have been sold or leased to companies, to exploit the mineral wealth. This extraction will destroy that ecosystem. The radio spectrum is just another natural resource to be exploited to those people. That is why hams lost 215MHz. That is why television reception is being downgraded in the population centers, as the former broadcast spectrum is taken from the people, and sold to corporations. This is why hams need to guard the 2m allocation from encroachment.

The administrations in place, and the parties in power, are specifically not mentioned, to keep this from going down a political path. It is about the spectrum, and how most people do not see it as anything special.
 

n1das

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I am also curious about why the concern for privacy in the first place.
And no other reason than; because we should be able to. The constitution really is law, and the spirit of that law is that we are free to conduct our lives as we see fit without suspicion of malice. You wouldn't tolerate the ability of strangers or of 'designated enforcement authorities' to peer over your shoulder or listen to every word you spoke in real world conversations, so I'm not sure why anyone would be content to tolerate it in electronic communications. I guess the ability of monitors to be "there" without really being physically present is pretty disarming to most folks.

You do know that the courts have consistently held that there is no implied privacy while transmitting on the public airwaves, right?

The short and simple answer to your question in the thread title is NO.

The radios spectrum is a public resource. It is also public in that all activities carried out there such as transmitting, are done publicly. Transmitting in the radio spectrum is a PUBLIC act. Privacy is not a reasonable expectation for the party doing the transmitting to have in the first place and there is no implied privacy. Radio listeners are not being nosey. It is the people who do the transmitting that are being exhibitionists in public. Common sense suggests that privacy of radio communications is best safeguarded by the party doing the transmitting. IIRC, it's also written in Part 90 that the responsibility for securing privacy of communications is on the party that does the transmitting. That's where the use of encryption then comes into play.

We technically DO NOT have a constitutional right to transmit on the public airwaves. This has been upheld by the FCC and the courts in many cases involving pirate radio broadcasting. Pirate broadcasters often believe they have a constitutional right to transmit on the public airwaves, but they don't. Transmitting on the air is a privilege, not a right. The Constitution is not at issue here.

When I transmit on the public airwaves for ANY reason, including on my cell phone, I don't expect privacy at all since actual privacy does not exist, there is none implied, and it is not reasonable to expect any either. I fully expect my radio transmissions may be overheard by somebody out there and without my knowledge or consent. The lack of any implied privacy goes with the territory while committing a public act in a public place. I welcome them to listen all they want to and to their heart's content. The airwaves are public and the world has ears.

While the Motorola 900MHz DTR and DLR radios are technically not encrypted, they are completely scanner proof due to the nature of FHSS and their digital (VSELP) operation. Even if the FHSS operation were stopped and stayed on a single frequency in the hopset of 50 frequencies, the occupied bandwidth of the 8-level digital modulation scheme used is wider than what a narrowband receiver will accept. And then you would still need to decode the VSELP digital. Aside from Motorola and 3-letter government agencies, the only inexpensive and practical way to monitor the DTR and DLR radios is to have one yourself, AND it has to be programmed to the same frequency hopset and talkgroup ID being used. Private 1 to 1 calling is not monitorable by another DTR or DLR radio not part of the 1 to 1 call.

I actually have had a case where someone who knew what they were doing tried to listen to my wife and I when we were using our DTR radios at a ham flea market. He failed of course. This was at NEAR-fest at the fairgrounds in Deerfield NH. My wife had gone to get food from one of the food vendors while I was still wandering around the fairgrounds. We were chitchatting on the DTRs to figure out where to meet up when a guy a table asked her what frequency we were using. Since she didn't know, she asked me over the DTR radio and said a guy at a table was asking her. I replied that they are FHSS digital radios operating in the 902-928MHz ISM band. The guy then said to her "Oh! So THAT'S why I can't find you on my spectrum analyzer!!" LOL. He was expecting to see a strong narrowband emission pop up somewhere in the UHF part of the spectrum and remain there for the duration of each transmission. We were hiding in plain site with who knows how many other FHSS devices operating in the 902-928MHz band. We were also using a Private talkgroup programmed in our DTR radios so they are not monitorable by other DTR and DLR radios in the area.

I challenge anyone to try to monitor private 1 to 1 calling on my DTR radios "on the fly" to demonstrate how "un-secure" they are. All I ask is they show me how they did it so I can do the same to monitor other DTR and DLR radios. Listening to the available public talkgroups doesn't count since anyone with a DTR or DLR radio can do that.

The bottom line is if you want communications privacy, you have no business making an electromagnetic emission. IOW, stay out the radio spectrum.
 
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natedawg1604

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When it comes to ham radio using 222 Mhz is almost as good as encryption, very few people have these radios in most areas. Same could be said for 900.

And even more so with P25, I think it's fare to say very, very, very few ham radio operators anywhere in the country have p-25 radios on the ham bands. In the entire state of Colorado, I'm pretty sure there is only 1 p-25 ham repeater, and very, very few people use it. It might as well be encrypted.

Of course people with scanners can still here p-25 or 220, but how many people with scanners actually monitor the ham bands with their scanner? I do it occasionally but not very often.
 

n1das

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LOL, I guess I'm one of those few hams in the country with P25 (Phase 1) capability on the 2m and 440 bands. I wonder if any hams are experimenting with P25 Phase 2. I used to have some Kenwood NEXEDGE (NXDN) portables on UHF. I mostly use DMR and plain old analog on the 2m and 440 bands.

My 900MHz DTR radios are used for non-ham stuff as my professional quality digital replacement for GMRS/FRS for local on-site simplex type use with family and friends.
 
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