DeGoogled phones have become popular lately.
In late August of 2021, the Australian government, with Labor’s support, gave law enforcement the power to spy on the online activity of criminals. While many details of these new powers and the underlying bill surrounding their legality are still in question, the fundamental underpinnings are the same – police in Australia can now hack citizens’ devices and interrupt their data.
Of course, it is good to have new tools that can prevent terrorism on any front, and supporting the men and women putting their lives on the line to keep us safe is always welcome. But at some point, we have to ask a fundamental question: at what cost?
While the government may have the best motivations in mind, what is stopping a single government worker from suddenly tracking the activity of an ex-lover? How about a law enforcement official using these tools to target a neighbor whose politics they disagree on?
At what cost do we volunteer our privacy rights to capture more criminals? If the new standard is going to be a police officer capturing our device information, private photos, banking data, protected free speech, and more just during a traffic stop for a broken tail light, how can we protect ourselves?
The deGoogled Phones
Enter in the many benefits of a deGoogled phone. Every time you purchase an Apple or Android smartphone, you agree to services and apps that are preinstalled on these devices. In Google’s case, you acknowledge that they can use your data information and phone usages to customize advertisements to your device.
A deGoogled phone is the best way to avoid this preinstalled bloatware from tracking your online activities. Instead of having a bunch of apps and tracking data installed, these are refurbished phones with open-source operating systems that offer a lot more security and added protection.
Typically you get a Samsung Tablet or Google Pixel phone that has been refurbished without the surveillance and privacy problems of an “out of the box” phone from a retail store. These deGoogled phones will not scan the data you store or track you across all your daily activities. You still get all the fully functional benefits you could want, including the camera and battery testing, but without Big Tech or government agencies watching over your shoulder.
How do deGoogled Phones Work?
Most people start by purchasing a prepaid SIM card when they get a deGoogled phone. This way, they can install the card in the new phone and try it out for a while before committing to completely transitioning from their previous phone to the new model. Once they are ready, all that is required is dropping your regular SIM card into your deGoogled phone and then transferring contact data via bluetooth.
Your phone number can stay the same, and most deGoogled phones come “carrier-free,” which means they can work on any significant carrier or WiFi hot spot. It is also good to have a second SIM card anyways in case something goes wrong with your primary card. No matter what, you will be able to make a 911 call because even a phone without a SIM can make that call in case of an emergency.
When you do decide to transition from your current phone to a deGoogled phone, it would be wise to store your older model in a Faraday bag. These are specially designed pouches that have mesh material similar to what is used in military applications. They prevent the reception or transmission of any signals in or out from your phone. This way, no one can break into your previous phone when you are using your new deGoogled phone.
As for operating systems, most phones either use Android (Google) or iOS (Apple). Both of these operating systems have been well documented to spy and store users’ private data for the benefit of advertising, improving systems, selling to third parties, and giving to governments during wide-ranging and invasive investigations.
When you purchase a deGoogled phone from our experts at Freedom Technology and Services, you are getting a device with GrapheneOS. This is the same operating system recommended by famed whistleblower Edward Snowden as being incredibly secure. If you are purchasing a tablet, you will be getting LineageOS. These open-source OS do not track your information and allow you to operate your device without fear of big brother or Big Tech.
Give Me an Example?
Australia is no more secure from Big Tech companies overreaching their privacy boundaries than any other country in the world. In April of 2021, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission announced they had won a court battle against Google.
The court ruled that people who set up their new Android devices in 2017-2018 were being lied to by Google about what data would be tracked. Instead of it just being the location history of their GPS coordinates, which is scary by itself, it ended up being web activity, personally identifiable data, and more.
This all comes back to the same standard that should scare any privacy advocate. When the product is free, we are the product. When Google and other Big Tech companies ask for your information to sign up for a service like free email, cloud storage, and more, they are then going to track you to earn money. These are businesses, not non-profits. They are out to bring home the financial bacon and will happily continue to track your data as long as the fines for that activity stay relatively low.
What About My Favorite Apps?
This is where the grey area of deGoogled phones comes into play. Yes, you absolutely can put any app you would want on your deGoogled phone. In fact, you are more capable because your deGoogled phone is open-sourced, making it a better environment for apps that you usually would never be allowed to use.
The grey area comes into play because you do not want to sign up for a Google account to get these apps from the Google Store. What many people do instead is set up another account on the deGoogled phone and then download the apps in a “sandbox” environment using Aurora Store. Think of this as a digital quarantine for your phone where you can get the apps you want and then safely transfer them to the places you will be using them.
Freedom Technology and Services uses three different app installation sources:
- F-droid: a free and open-source (FOSS) repository of apps with minimal permissions and trackers to protect your privacy and avoid surveillance.
- Websites: these are apps that do not redirect you back to the Google play store, but allow you to operate the app via a shortcut or bookmark on your phone instead of having to get a fresh install.
- Aurora Store: an open-sourced client of the Google Play Store that is relatively trustworthy. It works the same as Google play Store, but spoofs your address and anonymises the user. It will also advise how many, and what type of trackers may be included in the app.
As for browsing the web, a quality deGoogled phone will have browsers and technology that you may not be used to on your normal device. These combinations of software enable you to search, read, and interact online without being tracked. Typically this includes ad-blocking elements and anti-tracing software like:
- VPN: a virtual private network that protects your internet connection and privacy online by creating an encrypted tunnel for your data transmission.
- Brave Browser: a fast, private, and secure web browser with integrated tracking and ad-blocking support.
- Tor Browser: military-grade onion routing that ensures you cannot be tracked while surfing online to the current and hidden web.
When you do purchase a deGoogled phone from Freedom Technology and Services, you will receive a small instructional PDF. This will give you insight into using the new device and getting more acquainted with the many features and security benefits.
Are deGoogled Phones For Everyone?
Do not listen to anyone that says deGoogled phones, tablets, or Faraday bags are for conspiracy theorists. Many in government work, big business, legal counsel, and journalism are employing these devices to protect everything from sources to private data about legal cases from being stolen by overzealous actors.
As more laws are passed in the spirit of “protecting our rights” while allowing police officers to monitor our online activity, we are going to need systems in place to maintain the free flow of information.
To learn more about deGoogled phones and other protective devices, check out the store on Freedom Technology and Services. When you are ready, send an email to the excellent team about getting your own deGoogled phone and join the many privacy advocates and freedom fighters hoping to stay safe from Big Tech and Government overreach.