Purim’s upcoming Librem 5 smartphone has two key selling points. First, it will ship with free and open source GNU/Linux software featuring as little proprietary code as possible. And second, it features three hardware hardware kill switches that can disconnect:

  • The mic and cameras
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Cellular baseband

In other words, it’s a phone aimed at folks who are interested in software freedom and/or privacy.

But Purism notes that there are other things you might want to shut off, like the phone’s GPS capability, proximity sensor, compass, and accelerometer. So rather than cover the Librem 5 in kill switches, the company is introducing a new feature called Lockdown Mode.

Here’s the idea: flip all three kill switches and the Librem 5 will shut down all of the sensors that could be used to track you. Off goes the mic, the camera, the WiFi, Bluetooth, and Cellular wireless radios. But it’ll also shut down the GPS, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, compass, and everything else.

You’ll still be able to use the phone to run apps, view your calendar, or perform other actions. But the Librem 5 won’t connect to the internet, take pictures, or track your location in any way because when all three switches are flipped, the power to all sensors will be cut.

Users can exit Lockdown Mode by flipping any of the three switches back on. And if you want to disable most of the sensors, but not all of them, you can always do that in software. It might just take a little longer.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you want to, say, using offline GPS navigation, you’ll probably have to jump through some hoops. For example Purism suggests you could use hardware kill switches to disable WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections, but leave on the camera switch so that you don’t enter Lockdown Mode. Then you can disable the mic, camera, and other sensors using software.

The Librem 5 is up for pre-order for $649 and Purism hopes to begin shipping phones to customers in the third quarter of 2019.



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