Ever heard of walkie-talkie privacy codes? Most likely, that should explain why you’re here.
Beginners often come across this feature when purchasing their first device.
Privacy codes were specifically developed to help amateur radio operators overcome the problem of using their device in “dense” areas. By “dense,” I mean a busy area where you have other people using two-way radios.
Finding a clear channel to communicate with your partner(s) in such places can be very difficult. Privacy codes are meant to make things easier.
In this guide, we are going to see what these codes are, how they work, and why they matter. We will also clear up some of the misconceptions about the codes.
Let’s start by answering the most obvious question…
What Are Walkie Talkies Privacy Codes?
So, what exactly are privacy codes?
If we were to go by the name, we would probably say privacy codes help us to make our radio conversations private and secure. Unfortunately, this notion (which is also held by many people) doesn’t actually describe what privacy codes are or what they do.
In fact, privacy codes don’t make your conversations secure; rather, their chief purpose is to get rid of interference on a channel. Thus, when you set a channel, you also set the privacy code so you can only hear people who use the same channel.
Privacy code was first featured in Motorola radios, but right now, it’s found in most premium brands.
Apart from two-people communication, you can also use privacy codes as a group. For instance, if you were using channel 10 in your group, and you want to be able to hear only your partner, then you can set the privacy code on both radios to 2 or something like that.
Other names commonly used for privacy code include sub-channel, digital code squelch, private line, interference eliminator codes, and so on. However, “privacy codes” is the name you will hear most of the time, and that is the name mostly used by manufacturers.
Types of Walkie Talkie Privacy Codes
Privacy codes are generally grouped into two categories –CTCSS and DCS. The difference between the two groups lies in the type of encryption they use (i.e., the way they transmit and activate the audio sound). Let’s look at both in more detail.
CTCSS or Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System is a type of circuit used in some walkie talkies to eliminate the possibility of hearing other users on a shared channel.
In other words, let’s say you have a group using a particular channel, then there’s another person (or group) within range operating the same channel. Usually, without any privacy code, you would be able to hear what the other person or group is saying.
Using CTCSS means the radio is going to transmit the voice together with a low-frequency audio tone so that only users using the same CTCSS on the shared channel can successfully pick up the message.
Radios set to a different CTCSS, or none at all, will be filtered out of the conversation since they do not have the specific tone combination needed to activate the transmission.
In summary, CTCSS uses a “tone-based” type of encryption to enable the sharing of messages between a selected group of users. For this reason, you might hear it being called “tone squelch” sometimes.
It is important to note that while using CTCSS helps to mask interference from unwanted sources, it still doesn’t provide any real security. All the radios on the shared channel are still broadcasting on the same frequency.
As earlier indicated, both DCS and CTCSS basically accomplish the same thing. However, instead of using sub-audible audio tones for encoding transmissions, it uses digital code encryption.
Thus, just as you would use a single CTCSS tone for a group of walkie talkies, you can also use a single DCS code for many radios on the same channel. DCS simply stands for Digital Coded Squelch.
You might also come across it as DPL (Digital Private Line), DCG (Digital Channel Guard), or DTCS (Digital Tone Code Squelch), depending on the manufacturer.
How Privacy Codes Work
So, how exactly does privacy code work? Well, if you followed the article up to this point, you should have an idea.
As described earlier, whenever privacy code is activated on a radio, it sends out a low-frequency squelching sound or code that is only picked by another radio (or radios) with the same privacy code function. Note that only transmissions that come attached with the code or sound are allowed through.
In other words, any other broadcast that doesn’t have this right privacy code is muted out. This way, you are only able to hear from those using the same privacy code as you.
Do Privacy Codes Give You Any Actual Privacy?
Given the name, it’s quite tempting to think privacy codes make your conversations private. But this is not the case. Rather, its purpose is to block out transmissions from other people using the same channel.
In other words, you only get to hear those you want to hear (i.e., the people using the same privacy code with you). Thus, it would be more appropriate to say privacy code is nothing more than a filtering system and not a feature that provides security or privacy.
So, it would sound more accurate to call it “interference eliminator code.
Are walkie talkies private?
No, they are not. Privacy Code is just a term used to describe a function that filters out unwanted transmissions on a channel. It only allows you to select who you want to listen to.
Can walkie talkies pick up police?
Yes, they can, but it’s not every model that can do this. You will need to be on the same frequency for this to work. Note that you can only listen to conversations but won’t be able to talk back.
We will draw the curtains here. I hope we’ve been able to answer your questions about walkie talkie privacy codes. If you have followed the article to this point, then by now, you should be familiar with what privacy codes are and how they are relevant to you.
Feel free to ask your questions in case you still need clarification in any area. Until then, happy talking!