Reply To: Radio Q&A

  • Farm-Ranch-Homestead

    March 1, 2024 at 6:16 pm

    How can I ensure privacy in my radio communications? What about “privacy codes” on the radio?

    The short answer to this is you can’t. You are using public airwaves, so whatever you transmit can be received by anyone with an appropriate receiver. On these airwaves, it is not legal to encrypt your transmissions, so you always need to operate on the assumption that there is someone else listening at all times.

    Some (many?) FRS “bubble pack” radios are advertised to have “privacy” codes. These do not provide privacy. What “privacy” codes do, is transmit an inaudible tone on the transmitting radio, then the receiving radio squelches (or mutes) all signals that are received that don’t contain the selected tone, allowing only those transmissions with the tone to be heard. This prevents you from hearing other people’s radio traffic, but it does nothing to make your radio traffic private. In Amateur radio and GMRS, this feature is commonly referred to as CTCSS. DCS is another system that provides essentially the same functionality.