Just How Anonymous Are We With the Librem 5?

In anticipation of receiving my Librem 5 Evergreen, I have a few questions about anonymity when using the Librem 5.

Does each phone have its own IMEI number? I don’t plan to do anything illegal with it. But I would hope that when the government or Google or anyone else scans my Librem 5, they get nothing that can be matched later to my activity nor to my identity. I want it to be like the days before there was an Intel Management Engine, and everyone was anonymous, except for the traceability of who was assigned a given IP address at any given time (too cumbersome for them to research on everyone except for if you are a bonafied suspect).

So let’s assume that I do not take part in anything that requires me to be identified (no signing-up for anything online and accepting no cookies). That includes not installing any software that uses cookies, no banking apps, and no other kinds of authentication outside of my own personal networks that I build myself. This may not be practical. But let’s go with it as a basis, before starting to make any compromises in exchange for features that may require compromising our privacy. Can the government identify me and start building a new profile on me from my L5, just because I have a phone that is capable of making and receiving calls, and because the phone has an internet connection? What power will Google have over my privacy, considering that I won’t be a part of their eco-system nor will I have agreed to anything from them? Is it accurate to say that six months later, they will have linked my profile built on me from my Librem 5, to all of my other Android and PC devices, accounts, advertising profiles, and personal identity, regardless of what I actually use my L5 for, simply because I am me and because they are good at spying?

As another issue, both Google and Apple may be so accustomed to stomping on everyone’s privacy that they may not be capable from a technical perspective, of respecting our privacy rights. The internet is built on technology that has required us to sign-away our rights, just to get access, for quite some time now. I could see the likelihood that there are several spying algorithms operating under the assumption that you wouldn’t be where they could spy on you, without agreeing to Google and Apple’s terms (which are probably shared between them) first. So until a class-action lawsuit forces otherwise, both Google and Apple (and probably Microsoft too), may not be capable of respecting anyone’s rights, considering that outside of Purism products, people don’t have privacy rights to begin with. We’ve all given up those rights up long ago. Getting those rights back now may not be easy, even if you have a phone that is compatible with having privacy rights. Just getting a behemoth to notice your adamant protests against what they’re doing can be impossible when they are huge and they’re not set up to deal with issues like the one you have with them, no matter how much the law is on your side. How does an insect communicate to the elephant effectively, that he doesn’t like being stepped on when the elephant really doesn’t care to begin with? He is just going to do what he is going to do unless or until someone can stop him.


I would predict: yes. The IMEI is on the modem card though.

A lot of web sites embed ‘stuff’ from Google. You may need to block accessing anything Google-related. However that will likely break some web sites.


You should also avoid browsing: https://panopticlick.eff.org.

For the reason above, this is probably possible, but definitively harder than for typical users, which means your privacy improves. Don’t forget to install Noscipt and PrivacyBadger for Firefox though.

The “insect” does not communicate anything to the “elephant”. It communicates with other “insects” until enough of them agree to act together.


@ everybody - for those of you who have seen the movie ‘Citizenfour’ from 2014 i would like to start off by expressing my belief that PRIVACY IS LIBERTY !!!

ANONIMITY is something that people who engage in whisteblowing or activism like Edward Snowden and many others have used as a temporary means to achieve their goal, however it’s important to note that they have chosen to NOT rely on it indefinitely, rather after they have exposed FACTS they have stepped into our common PUBLIC attention for the greater good …

that is something that we should ALL consider when making these distinctions …

this is something even more important for those of you who live on the soil where the Statue of Liberty currently resides …


It doesn’t matter where you live: privacy is a human right.


absolutely. i mentioned that in relation to how the USA federal-gov. has treated the REST of the world post 9/11 in regards to indiscriminate-bulk-data-collection … see Binney/Snowden/Assange etc.

also of note is how MUCH the bulk-collection capabilities have increased since the revelations of 2013 … and it’s likely they will continue to increase as nothing of major importance has changed since then …

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It seems to me that anonymity is the ultimate form of privacy. How can someone effectively spy on you if they have no clue about your real identity because you are anonymous? Why share your identity if you see no reason to do so, and if no legitimate reason exists for any others to have that information? If I walk down the sidewalk, minding my own business, intruding on no one, why does anyone need to know my name or anything else about me? It is only if there should be some kind of relationship, that my identity starts to become relevant. Do strangers have the right to photograph me, run my picture through a database to identify me, and then accost me with sales offers against my will as I enjoy my anonymous walk through a public space? Yes and no. If they want to be rude, they can photograph me or simply beg for money. Then again, there are valid reasons for restraining orders. What kind of a society do we want to live in? Anonymity should be legitimately enjoyed as a human right. We don’t owe anyone an excuse for demanding it. We can avoid neighborhoods (and web-sites) that intrude on our anonymity. The best way for a person to lose their anonymity should be to intrude on someone else’s rights. Like if you violate the law in a public space, the police ask you to show them your ID. But short of that, you should have a right to be anonymous.

Some people have suspicions against anyone who wants to be anonymous. If you contact someone else or offer to sell something, that initiates a relationship and you should be prepared to give up your identity to them. Where there is no reason for any personal or business relationship, I want to retain my anonymity by default so that no one can get leverage to stalk me (even only if, to try to sell me something). This is a boundary that I do not want others to cross.

But I am intrigued about the subtle differences between anonymity and privacy. Please elaborate?

about as anonymous as an old flip phone with hardware switches . so basically triangulation only while cell baseband is on . I saw apple android and l5 telemetry and PureOS if im not mistaken sent 0kb of data .

I believe both privacy and anonymity (at least the opportunity to be anonymous) are important.

That said, Bryan Lunduke disagrees. He believes privacy is important, and that for the most part anonymity is not a good thing.

The following video explains the difference (as he understands it). It is a good video, even though I disagree with him on anonymity.

I watched Ryan Lunduke’s whole video here and agree with just about everything he said. But he didn’t cover everything which can’t be expected since any discussion can go in any direction and still be incomplete.

I think that the concept of relationships is important toward understanding the issue of anonymity. We all have a right to set boundaries. Where I have a boundary with a stranger, there is no relationship. That doesn’t mean that we can’t become friends, just that in the moment, there is no personal or business relationship. In this event, I choose to be anonymous by default. It is a kind of boundary set in place as a self defense mechanism. Where there is no interaction between parties or when one party desires to have no interaction, this is appropriate. So I block out sales and marketing efforts and one strategy to that end is to be anonymous. In most cases, the internet sales people or marketing people remain anonymous while we are exposed. There is no good or appropriate reason to allow this in to your life on purpose.

When we choose to take actions publicly, then we invite others in to some kind of engagement with us, even if only to debate an issue. In many of these cases, the anonymity can become in-appropriate when we invite others to interact with us. This is also where the internet or telephone sales people go wrong. The first thing I ask a sales person who calls me blindly is “what is your home phone number? the one that will be answered by your wife or kids if you’re not home?”. They quickly understand why I don’t want to talk with them as they decline to give me the personal information I ask them for.

But this forum is one of many examples where anonymity is good. I am in a related industry (semiconductors) and like to discuss technical issues from time to time. By remaining anonymous and by not promoting my employers products here, I can share and learn new concepts from others here that might be difficult or impossible to share or learn elsewhere, without the burdensome disclosure encumbrances that I would otherwise be obligated to (a requirement placed on me by my employer if I involve them in what I say). In unrelated forums, I may use my real name if I have something to say. In any event, we should all speak as though everyone knows who we are when it comes to treating others well. It appears to me that Bryan is saying that anonymity is not good if the goal is to communicate with others or to establish any kind of working relationship. He didn’t really address the use of anonymity to shut others who don’t belong, out of your life or out of your business. With the aggressive efforts out there to exploit you, strong personal boundaries are good.

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a lot of great points here.

digital anonymity is the highest form of digital privacy/liberty that any one person can have at one time in one place on the public internet. there is no question about that … is there ?

where it gets tricky i believe is when we start interacting with each other.

on the www it’s pretty much impossible to NOT step inside someone’s house (website). when i visit the Purism forum (Discourse is free-software AFAIK) i’m not required to log-in unless i want to post something or have access to some other limited to registered-members functions.

if i log-in or not here or anywhere else, on the www it matters not, because my ip-address is collected and stored on some server somewhere (probably in the USA), so no-matter-where i am in the world i’m immediately identifiable by the people who have the proper clearance to that data.

now, because data is just bits (essentially 0 an 1, on and off electrical states in some form of memory), that means that it can very easily be stored, copied, moved, back-ed-up, tampered-with and subjected to any number of simple or complex mathematic operations that able people with access to this said data can muster.

because of the very simple nature of how computers work this process can be very easily overlooked when it comes to the subjective matter of individual-human-beings.

when you are being coerced into being a part of an economic system that only deals with numbers as a pure mathematical expression then it’s easy to figure out why true ANONYMITY at all times in the digital-world is very hard, most of the time impossible.

i say ‘coerced’ because the only way to resist this coercion is to be willing to trade a large portion of your convenience that is provided by the economic system-in-place, for digital-freedom/liberty/.

the current economic system-in-place rests in a very high degree on this very simple electrical binary apparatus, and a-lot of it has been made to function from the ground up with ACCOUNTABILITY in mind. to have accountability you need to have some form of way to identify individuals and if necessary make them answer to man made LAW.

the very act of being forced to answer to man made laws is a violation of free-speech.
if my right to free-speech is indeed to be protected then that must mean that i am either ABSOLUTELY protected against anyone anywhere demanding that i answer to whatever objections are brought against me or NOT.

in practice this is rarely how it works because there are not only man made laws there are also natural laws that go as deep as the source-code-of-the-universe itself.

when i break a natural law in a sufficiently aggravating manner then my right-to-free-speech might also get broken in a proportionally aggravating way …

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Only if you connect directly, rather than using e.g. VPN, HTTP proxy, TOR.

Would it be fair to say:

Anonymity - no one knows who you are

Privacy - no one knows who you’ve been

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i would assume that is how most non-technical people on the planet currently connect …
there are a lot of people that aren’t aware that there are certain GNU/Linux distributions like QubesOS, TAILS, etc. that are specifically built for the purpose of providing users with better tools to safeguard their digital-human-rights …

that being said just having the proper tools is NOT enough. one must also learn how to use them properly which comes with a learning curve and certain costs most of the time :wink:


A tiny nitpick:

Is Qubes just another Linux distribution?

If you really want to call it a distribution, then it’s more of a “Xen distribution” than a Linux one. But Qubes is much more than just Xen packaging. It has its own VM management infrastructure, with support for template VMs, centralized VM updating, etc. It also has a very unique GUI virtualization infrastructure.

ah yes. thanks for the intervention. i was on about the privacy aspect more than the GNU aspect but yes QubesOS should be on every privacy-die-hard-fan’s radar …

Snowden said he uses Qubes. i wonder if he changed to something else in the meantime.

for me Qubes is a lil’ to much though but i get why people go the extra mile for squeezing out that last bit of compartmentalization …

Qubes OS has been my daily drivers already for years. If you don’t play games or work with graphics, it’s a great OS. It even allows you to separate your digital life into independent domains, helping to structure everything. And backups are amazing.

Forum participants here would not be representative of the average human. :wink:

if not using a VPN or TOR makes me an average human then perhaps you are right … i’m as average as they come :sweat_smile:

Using a VPN is pretty mainstream these days.

Purism even provides a VPN service, so there’s no excuse. :slight_smile: