Why the Librem 5 does not have a GPS switch?


Why the Librem 5 does not have a GPS switch?

I consider very important the implementation of a GPS switch.


Me too… the more hw switches the better IMO! haha. I hate all these phones without any buttons. Nothing wrong with buttons to me! The more hw kill switches the better. I hardly even use GPS overall!


I think the answer is because the GPS chip is totally passive - it does not broadcast or send any data, it just receives signals from GPS satellites and calculates location based on the timing of those signals. Any location broadcasting would thus happen over the cellular/WiFi network, so killing those is sufficient.

But @nicole.faerber may have a better answer


Well that makes sense… and I guess also since it wont have crap spying software/hardware, it shouldn’t send location info as much anyway.

But for me personally, i use cell/wifi all the time , but NOT gps. For me, ideally I woud have GPS switch off most of the time but with cell/wifi switch on far more. Anyway, I could be wrong about how it works


I suspect you will be able to use a software switch to turn off location, as you can do in Android and probably iOS.


I read this argument at least twice now, but i still don’t think its a good one, as same could be said about microphone and camera. So an compromised device could record movement patterns even in offline mode and and disclose them later.
The difference i see between microphone/camera and gps is that in online mode your position is traceable any way as using wifi and mobile always gives away your position. So no real point in data on but gps off. So adding gps to the data kill switch would be the trivial idea. But this cut the possibility to use offline maps with no data on to navigate. They could have added it to the microphone/camera switch. Where you than have the case off being only but want to block camera and microphone to not be spyed on but would like to navigate as your position is disclosed anyway. So it neither fits and a third button is probably to much effort for this problem.

Also i thinks purism want to use a dedicated gps chip not the on in the modem, so this component might be more trustworthy then in other devices where it is connected to the baseband blackbox. Which makes it less likely to disclose any information.

So in my point of view purism choose usability over a smaller privacy enhancement for a rare corner case here. Which seams totally fine to me.

PS: I just had an idea. What if gps is turned off only if both data and mic/cam switches are in off position? Like only turn off gps if full paranoid mode is on? :smile:


i think the main difference between a Librem 5 and any other phone is “compromised by design” and “compromised by accident”. So if you have a closed device the design already intentionally compromises your privacy.

a librem 5 doesnt do so. there may well be vulnerabilities which give access by accident but this is by far a smaller threat than you have on a regular handset.

so i wonder about all this killswitchdiscussion and would suggest for the paranoid to better ask for a removable battery :wink:


no don’t ask for a removable battery … ask for a hot-swapable battery and a separate GPS module.


like modern lenovos? where you can’t really be sure the unit is no-op? and ME still running sending while you assume it can’t as you removed all power? doubt that will satisfy the average paranoid… :smiley:


PS: I just had an idea. What if gps is turned off only if both data and mic/cam switches are in off position? Like only turn off gps if full paranoid mode is on? :smile:

GPS is still useful even in “full paranoid mode”. Imagine an offline GPS tracker, like Google’s location history but genuinely private. Data from your GPS module can be controlled through drivers and permissions like on android.

Unless the GPS module is connected on the same bus with something else, even with propitiatory firmware it should be safe. That is as long as there isn’t an exploit in your CPU, where the GPS module can be used to remotely receive live, read-only exploit instructions.


There should be a hardware switch-off for GPS.With GPS on, some mal app could track your location path and sent it to “interested” peers/authorities/secret services/…


Well said. But while true i do believe there would be benefits to having a GPS kill switch.

This argument has the same points as why a hard switch exists for the camera/microphone. In an ideal system, the microphone and camera wouldn’t be abused by a malicious application. Microphone and video data only becomes dangerous if that information leaves your system and falls into the hands of a malicious attacker. Under normal operation these devices aren’t dangerous. It would cause a system compromise for these devices to become dangerous.

This is the same with GPS. If there was malware running on the system, the malware could query the GPS chip to retrieve the location of the computer, and exfil this data in some way. By having a hard switch for GPS, you can continue using your computer without worrying about a location leak (disabling WiFi/BT location would be achieved by flipping the network switch).


I am the guy that would prefere a mobile without too much mechanical parts like an additional switch. a hardwired led indicating the device on or off would do for me.

any switch, plug, button will suffer from dust, dirt and usage and should be voided. this is a learning from other hw manufacturers.


it’s close to 2019. i wouldn’t be surprised if smart people come up with a solution to this. there is a reason why technology advances and better techniques to design and build hardware appear. when has dust, dirt and usage prevented anyone from building useful things ?


Could there be any hidden interest in not adding a switch to disable GPS?


Oh, please… what would be a scenario? Reading GPS data while online has a very limited benefit, as you can then also use the public IP, the wireless network ID and/or the cell tower info to get an approximate location. (Also, when online you have things to worry more about than a more precise position)
While offline, you can only store the location and hope to transmit it when online. If that is your concern, you better also include the gyroscope in the same kill-switch, or your jealous hacker-girlfriend will just use that data to reconstruct your movements.
So, this may be a concern to the Ed Snowdens of this world, but a bit over the top for us ordinary people.

BTW, I think @mdt’s indicator LED idea is excellent. (Just make sure it is really small, like a pixel or so, and maybe is only lit when the display is also active.


Wrap the phone in foil when offline, GPS doesn’t work in a Faraday cage. Although you can’t read the screen. Maybe use a metal mesh like in the the door of a microwave oven, but then touch screen use is still compromised.
Wrap it in foil for transport and carry a foil tent that you climb inside for app use?


Watch this movie to learn how ordinary people are being tracked: