Kill switch for the next fairphone

Hi all,
I haven’t found any longer discussion about hardware killswitches and didn’t find a better forum place than this. Please move the thread when another forum is more appropriate for this discussion.

Is there a discussion on adding hardware killswitches to the next generation of fairphones like the Librem 5 phone has? Does the community think this already solved well enough on the software level using a FOSS?
I personally prefer the Fairphone to the Librem 5 due to the transparent supply chain and living wages, but would like to have a hardware killswitch or understand how I can turn off (disconnect from power) the squaking wireless, camera/microphone when I choose to. This is part of how I understand owning my phone.
Thanks for any replies,
Curlydave

10 Likes

There is such a topic, maybe your post can be moved to the top one below

Just edited the title to help find this post as you can already search for ‘Kill switch’ rather than Killswitch :slight_smile:

1 Like

Kill switches is a really god idea. For me to find them practical. They have to be accessible without opening the case.

8 Likes

What about those slidey-thingies that physically cover the camera, that you can already but in many places?
Downside is that it would cover the flash too :frowning_face:

1 Like

The slidey thing would also protect the lens.

Just signed up to say that I’ll buy the Fairphone once they add killswitches (mic, cam, wifi) to it

2 Likes

This is clearly a minority opinion – and therefore probably not something that any smartphone OEM would implement . For the majority of users and buyers this is simply something that might cause confusion or break.

Best wishes,
Thomas

2 Likes

Please define “any smartphone OEM” in the presence of Pine64 and Purism, who already build smartphones with kill switches for the minority.

5 Likes

Definitely relevant for me whether I will buy the next Fairphone.

1 Like

I do think there are some people who would like to have kill switches. Me too. :wink:

@amoun has already given 2 helpful links where you can see the interest of others.

If Fairphone were to include kill switches at some point, a lot more people would stumble upon the issue in the first place and think the switches are good. If you don’t know about something, you can’t wish for it or miss it.

2 Likes

I “second” the need for hardware (physical disconnect) privacy switches for camera, mic, and antennae. It’s the only reason I haven’t gotten a Fairphone already.

I emailed Fairphone about this and didn’t get a response.

Then sent the same email to SHIFTphones and they replied a day later, saying they’d pass on the idea to their developers. In fact SHIFT already has a laptop with a killswitch so my bet is they may actually take this request seriously. Maybe Frame.Work–which made a laptop with such switches from the very start–will make this kind of phone as well in the distant future.

But I caution against killswitches like those in the current version of Pinephone. They’re tiny and located under the cover. Those are not user friendly and are basically useless for intraday needs.

The Librem 5 killswitches are much better in terms of intraday convenience since they’re on the side of the phone. But Purism has some serious problems with its business, customer service, and the phone itself so that’s rather unfortunate.

2 Likes

Hi and welcome to the forum. I have also contacted frame.work asking if they can consider using Fairtrade materials and Fair wages as Fairphone does.

But until someone else does then kill switches are way off the track. Fair trade and Fair wages lead the way for me.

1 Like

I see it the same way. That’s why I wrote in the topic

and added the picture:

1 Like

In which practical situation would a kill switch be useful and user-friendly? Not to mention production friendly. An antenna needs space at the sides of the phone. And a modular phone needs extra space as well. The FP4 is already way too big for my taste. Adding more buttons won’t make it better.

It’s a nice thought to be in control of your hardware. But in reality I don’t see the benefits. Are you protecting yourself against profiling for e.g. personalized ads? Your mic and camera are not used for that (yet). Are you worried about unsanctioned location requests? The moment you turn it on and navigate a few times to your home you lost that battle already. I can go on, also about WiFi and 4/5G connections. From what should this protect you against? Is it even happening? And once you turn it on to use it, isn’t it already futile to turn it off again?

To me this feature is a gimmick that comes at an unacceptable cost. I rather see an improved camera and microphone than a kill switch for it. And I think 99% would agree.

If you’re woried about your privacy, then don’t buy a smartphone. Switching off a part of that device because you’re not using it at that point won’t protect you from governments or ad companies. It will give a false sense of protection.

Switching off the front camera would be the only somewhat sensible feature. Less development cost and may be pushed for a good reason, but it’s still a false sense of privacy IMHO. If you can’t trust the software on your phone, then don’t use it.

10 Likes

Exactly. This chimes with what I was going to contribute to this conversation.

I understand the wish for privacy, I’m sure we all do. However physical switches, as has been said, make the phone more exposed to water and dust ingress and complicate its construction, to say nothing of the additional expense.

It seems to me that the same protection of privacy can be achieved through software … with the proviso that you can trust the software.
This implies using exclusively open source software and, if you’re not a coder, trusting those who are, to peer-review it competently and honestly. And even if you’re a coder, you’re unlikely to ever read all the code you use, so we’re all in the same boat.

If you don’t trust the software, the physical switches will be of no help, because there are plenty of other ways of invading your privacy than just using the mic, camera or antennae. In a way the switches could, as you say UPPERCASE, be said to be counter-productive, giving a false sense of security.

In this search for the protection of privacy I think we should turn to those who are already working on alternative operating systems. I’m interested in iodéOS in this respect. Could they, and others, take it on board? I’d like to see, in the quick-access settings swipe-down panel, two extra icons: a mic and a camera. For the antenna, we already have one, it’s called aeroplane mode …

4 Likes

As there is a phone providing this, if this is really important to me, then why not just ordering this phone? Fairphones main mission is not privacy and I doubt there will ever be any phone covering all needs anyone might require, in my eyes that’s just impossible. So one has to choose what is most important for them and go with this product and accept the obstacles it might bring.

2 Likes

Ideology would forbid it:

The objectives in the conception of this ROM are threefold:

To keep the stability and security level of LineageOS, by minimizing the modifications made to the system. Apart the system modifications required by the adblocker, we mainly only added a few useful options commonly found in other custom ROMs, made some cosmetic changes, modified a few default settings to prevent data leaks to Google servers.

OK so I go up a step and ask the same question of Lineage …

[Edit: Pity. I’d have thought this was just the sort of thing a “very privacy-friendly custom ROM” would be interested in looking at.
Maybe I should just put in a feature request at AOSP. What are my chances …?]

1 Like

Yes we want trustworthy software and we have to assume that Fairphone does their best in this regard. But a physical switch is a protection from malicious hardware (or firmware).

I would only argue for one physical switch - to power off the cellular modem (baseband processor) because that is a proprietary system that runs proprietary software. This part of the phone has network access and often direct access to other parts of the hardware.

@m4ur1c3 mentioned that the cellular modem on the FP2 and FP3 is not well isolated but I don’t know the details.

So using an isolated modem that doesn’t have direct access to the microphone, memory, GPS,… would solve parts of those concerns.

As the Airplane mode was mentioned: do we have any confirmation, that the devices really doesn’t do any communication in this mode? Did anybody ever check or is there a statement from the manufacturer? Searching around I found a comment here:

“Airplane mode” is essentially and AT command sent to the baseband to disassociate and go to sleep, it doesn’t disable the baseband CPU, DSP or anything else.

I’m on Wi-Fi 95% of the time and do all my regular communications “over IP”. So for me it would work to just enable cellular once a day to receive some SMS and enable it once a month when I need to make a legacy phone call.

2 Likes

I wouldn’t trust “Airplane mode”, even if it doesn’t actually transmit any data, it’s way to easy to enable / disable by accident.

If you have a eSIM, you can turn those on and off quite easily. Since only one can be active at a time, switching to a “burner” one might be an option as well. Depending on the threat level, I wouldn’t trust that either, but I’d trust it more than simply “Airplane mode”.

1 Like