Using social media without giving up control of my (Android) phone?
July 25, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I don't like the amount of access to my (Android) phone most social media apps want, so I mostly use sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc. through a browser, which greatly reduces their access to my identity and personal data. But the user interface for a mobile website usually sucks compared with a dedicated app. Is there a better way? Are there any good 3rd-party apps for accessing these social media sites that don't demand access to my entire phone?
posted by straight to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is an option for you, but in Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) Google gives you the power over what app can access your stuff.

The other thing you could try is installing Firefox for Android and using a plugin like Ghostery or uBlock and an image blocker to block third party scripts, photos, and ads and reduce the amount of bandwidth the web versions are using. I used Firefox in this way for a while when I was frustrated about how much data simple tasks were using.
posted by selfnoise at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

For Twitter and Reddit, there are decent third-party apps that do not try to integrate as much with your OS. I use Twidere and Reddit is Fun.
posted by demiurge at 12:08 PM on July 25, 2016

What version of Android are you running and is it rooted? Through a module in the Xposed framework, I give out fictitious location data. I can also turn off the permissions individually. I simply deny access to my contacts, my calendar, my everything. The apps still run when you deny them permission except certain features like tagging an Instagram post with a location are left blank.
posted by AugustWest at 12:08 PM on July 25, 2016

Oh, and I use Fenix for my Twitter needs. It doesn't appear to have heavy permission needs and is an excellent app.
posted by selfnoise at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2016

For Facebook, there are a number of "wrapper" apps that essentially tailor Facebook's mobile Web site for a better experience on your phone. Tinfoil is the oldest; a direct descendant of that app is called Metal. My current favorite is Swipe for Facebook (there is also a Pro version that costs a couple of bucks, which is what I'm actually using). The developer has gone to some lengths to support Facebook messaging via numerous methods since Facebook keeps trying to push mobile users to their Messenger app.

It isn't as convenient to share photos on Facebook with most of the wrapper apps; generally you have to go into the app and attach a photo to your post, rather than using Android's share intents to be able to share an item directly from your photo gallery app. For replacing this functionality, I like an app called Buffer. The developer of Swipe has begun adding share intents, but Buffer is still more polished and convenient. (Buffer also posts to Twitter, G+, and a few other sites, and can do so on a schedule.)
posted by kindall at 12:20 PM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned I'm on a Republic Wireless MotoX phone which I've been very happy with overall, but can't be rooted or upgraded past Android 5.1. And I typically run Firefox with uBlock Origin, so blocking ads is also a priority for me, but not necessarily the only one.
posted by straight at 12:30 PM on July 25, 2016

This is kind of a nuclear option, but due to a software issue I ended up having to do a factory reset on my android phone a couple months ago. It reloaded my apps from my google profile, but I had to individually turn on permissions one by one to each app. Which...actually that's kind of awesome.

I'll use facebook messenger as an example. When you download the app from the app store, it requests a laundry list of bulk permissions that you can either yes or no in one lump. But after the factory reset, when I went to use the app, I had to give it individual permission to use my location the first time it wanted my location. Um, no, I don't think so. Then I had to give it individual permission to look at my photo stream. Ok, cool with that one. And then individual permission to use my camera. Nope, prefer not. And so far it's been fine! I've gone through the same thing with a handful of other permissions-heavy apps. The apps work just like they should, except I can't use the specific features I don't want to be using anyway. No harm done.

It was a complete accident that I stumbled across this "feature" but 10/10 would do it again.
posted by phunniemee at 12:42 PM on July 25, 2016

@phunniemee - That style of permission is new in Android 6 (Marshmallow), so it won't be available on straight's phone. (There's no need to factory reset either; once you've upgraded to Android 6, you can revoke any app's permissions in your phone's Settings.)
posted by kindall at 12:51 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had no idea about Swipe - that is awesome - just installed it.
posted by COD at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh look, there's a Tinfoil for Twitter too.
posted by kindall at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2016

I just access all the apps on the web, rather than through my phone interface. Gmail, I get from the web, same with facebook. I use private browsing on my phone too. I found a flashlight app, that doesn't try to access permissions. Just tear apart the target they want you in the center of. I turn off location.
posted by Oyéah at 9:50 PM on July 25, 2016

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