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How "Private" Are Radio Communications Now? What's is FCC Planning for the Future?

aeromarine

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I didn't want to hijack the "We Should Be Making Plans" thread so I started this one to inquire about how private radio communications really are. Yes, I know, using a radio requires a person always to use his/her call sign, to transmit only on authorized frequencies, and not use codes or encryption, etc. So, I guess I'm not really talking about privacy but, perhaps, maybe something more like anonymity (call sign requirement aside) or freedom from having anyone know your precise geographic location. I ask this because we all know cell phones have become a great way to track, listen in and monitor the population. Way back in the beginning when the first cell phones were being developed it would seem someone, like NSA, must have told the FCC to require manufacturers to all bundle in GPS tracking and the ability to listen in on the devices even when they were physically turned off. After learning about this, some people would remove the batteries from their phones to thwart that ability. So, some agency with the FCC's blessings then decided that wasn't good and required the manufacturers of cell phones and computers to install either a primary or secondary battery that cannot be removed so the device can always be accessed, tracked and monitored.

So, my questions is about about the equipment we all commonly use as amateur radio operators whether it be UHF/VHF HTs or the more substantial and powerful home rigs including HF transmitters. I believe some analog and digital units now offer the "convenience" of having the ability to transmit a unique code identifier or a programmed call sign plus precise GPS generated geographic coordinates. Now that may be a very nice option to have if you are stuck out at sea or lost in the wilderness expanse. But is it truly optional? Is there any evidence or knowledge that currently in use or soon to be released hardware will do that covertly or clandestinely without the operators willing consent or awareness.

Yes, there is a lot of tin foil stuff going right now given the unprecedented government attacks on free speech and corporate-initiated censorship we have witnessed over the past few days. It seems reasonable to assume everything we write, say or post electronically is being stored and, maybe, someday, key-word search for evidence of "racism, insurrection, treason or other evil or other "wrong thought". Could ham radio offer us any protection from that should the need arise? Please tell me if you know.
 

n1oty

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I have a Motorola KVL3000 and VHF/UHF/900 radios that have the modules that accept DES/AES keys. Part of my pre-planning years ago.
 
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As a new guy to amateur radio, could you please explain “DES/AES keys” for me. Don’t mean to offend, I don’t know what it is. Thanks.
 

n1oty

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In the Amateur radio service, you will not be worrying about encryption keys.

This is true if everything remains quiet. If I want to test my keys now, it is on a friend's business frequency. On the other hand, if bad things actually occur, I have no problem with encrypting my comms wherever I want to encrypt them.
 

DispositionMatrix

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This is true if everything remains quiet. If I want to test my keys now, it is on a friend's business frequency. On the other hand, if bad things actually occur, I have no problem with encrypting my comms wherever I want to encrypt them.
In that case, you might want to start by not having your Amateur radio call sign, a publicly-accessible reference to your FCC license containing your name and address, as your NES username.
 

n1oty

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As a new guy to amateur radio, could you please explain “DES/AES keys” for me. Don’t mean to offend, I don’t know what it is. Thanks.

If you are a new ham radio operator, a discussion of encryption is probably not on your radar right now. It may be something that will interest you at some point down the road.

DES and AES are two forms of encryption commonly used in radio communications. There are other forms as well. Basically, radio's are equipped with encryption modules into which digital "keys" are loaded. When one radio transmits in encrypted mode, the voice is scrambled by the key and can only be demodulated by other radio's with the exact same key sequence.

Of the two I mentioned previously, AES is more secure with a 256-bit key.

Any short discussion here about encryption would not do the topic justice. I would suggest searching on the internet for such things as AES encryption, motorola keyloader, etc. You'll find a lot of interesting material.
 

n1oty

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In that case, you might want to start by not having your Amateur radio call sign, a publicly-accessible reference to your FCC license containing your name and address, as your NES username.

I couldn't care less. I don't use encryption currently on the ham bands. If things go sideways that much that I am entertaining using encryption on ham bands, the FCC will be the least of my problems.
 
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