if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear
January 26, 2018 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Is personal privacy using an Android phone achievable by a mere un-techie mortal? Please point me in the right direction of settings or apps or widgets which will help me not be a schill for Mega Corp.

I have been using an old Blackberry Q10 for a while now, but it became unworkable for me because of the lack of a couple of key apps (WhatsApp and Uber) and also sheer age.
I didn't want to go back to iPhone as I really love the Blackberry keyboard so yesterday I bought the new Blackberry KeyOne which has an Android operating system.
I'm reasonably careful with my data not being collected in normal life and on my laptop- I search using Duckduckgo, I don't have a Facebook account etc. Please note I don't have anything in particular I need to hide, I just don't like the feeling of Big Brother breathing down my bloody neck the whole time and I don't see why any company deserves to know *everything* about me.

Anyway - somehow I managed to miss the fact that Android phones are made and owned and operated by Google. And now using it, I feel like I've been caught with my pants down...
Is there a guide anywhere to maximising privacy while running an android phone? Or can anyone recommend any individual settings/apps or tricks?

Note: both my work email and my personal email are gmail accounts.
posted by stevedawg to Technology (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You can disable location history: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3118687?hl=en

And you can disable search history: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/465 (see the section "Stop saving activity completely")

This will apply to your account regardless of where the data is coming from - web, mobile, whatever.
posted by GuyZero at 11:29 AM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Evie Launcher allows you to set your default search bar provider to DuckDuck Go.

Firefox Focus is a web browser with no persistent cookies or history. DuckDuck Go also has a privacy browser.

Photos might be another area to look for an alternative, but I have no suggestions there.

Just suggestions, do a bit of homework before making the jump.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:52 AM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't leave your wifi on when you're not using it. And don't use public wifi without a VPN.
As a browser, I would recommend Brave.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:54 AM on January 26, 2018

Best answer: You will need to use a Google account for many things and I do personally turn off every option -- search history, location history, YouTube watch history, etc. You should be able to change all these settings on your computer by going into your Google account settings -- look through every option. I also don't use Chrome and I personally opt for Dolphin (not sure if that's any better, but I just know Google Chrome tries to collect info) -- maybe I will look into Firefox Focus.

Not Android related, but I actually run a Firefox extension that performs random searches in the background to create noise around my normal searches, called TrackMeNot. I worry about that time anonymous search data got released and people could figure out who it was because they were googling things about themselves. I also use extensions called Privacy Badger and Disconnect.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:58 PM on January 26, 2018

I don't use rideshare every day, so I install and uninstall Uber/Lyft/Flywheel every time I use it. I keep location off unless I need it momentarily. I access most sites through Firefox and don't install the apps.
posted by quince at 1:06 PM on January 26, 2018

Note: both my work email and my personal email are gmail accounts.

If you're already using gmail at home and work, then Google already knows a lot about you. If I recall, I couldn't use most features on my android phone without a gmail account. You could always create a third gmail account to use just with your phone, but then your calendars won't sync and you really won't be getting as much functionality as is possible with your new phone.

Also, keep an eye on App permissions before downloading and installing them.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:06 PM on January 26, 2018

I ask this question without snark: How do you define "privacy"? Because every time you use a Google service, you're giving Google a ton of information about you, your habits, and your whereabouts. Others have suggested pretty solid strategies, but it's worth thinking about what the concept of "privacy" means to you in terms of a phone ecosystem, and finding your personal balance between privacy and usability.

For instance, I use Firefox Focus because I want as little of my online activity tracked as possible, but my job requires me to be in various locations, and I have become OK with keeping location on at all times because for me, who doesn't have a rooted phone and hasn't set up any automation tools, it's a massive pain to keep switching it on and off all the time.

I hate to sound like a cynic, but in many ways, the privacy ship has sailed if you've ever used an app (uninstalling and reinstalling the app doesn't eliminate the fact that the app company already has your data from last time you installed it), and the fact that both work and personal emails are Google means that a lot of the "privacy" you seek is long gone (they probably know more about you than you do at this point), so it really does come down to your personal comfort level and willingness to do the work to truly maintain privacy, however you choose to define it.
posted by pdb at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Get your own email with gandi.net or informaniak.ch
use k9 email client.

You can use opera mini with an build in VPN. Also saves data (but is know owned by a Chinese company). For firefox install ghostery and ad-blocker

Use here maps instead of google maps

Use threema or frozenchat (Jabber/OTR client) for chatting
posted by yoyo_nyc at 6:56 PM on January 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you very much everyone for your input here, it's super useful. I hear you pdb, that it's down to me how much work I want to put into this and the ship has largely sailed.
However I am going to put some of these great suggestions into place, even if it is just a little thumb in a dyke.
Very much appreciated everyone, thanks again
posted by stevedawg at 2:31 PM on January 27, 2018

The expression is "thumb in a dike" - just an FYI as that's a spelling mistake you don't really want to make.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:25 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think it's worth stating that you CAN use an Android phone without a Google account. I do exactly that, and it's been easier than I expected. The primary challenge has been lack of access to the play store, but I get along fine using F-droid and the Yalp store. But like others have said, if you already have Gmail accounts, that ship has essentially sailed.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:00 PM on February 2, 2018

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