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Android Privacy Tips

Ed Grochowski

Written 3-31-2019
android
This green guy is a spy

Introduction

Over the past decade, Google's Android has become the most popular operating system for smartphones. Android serves a dual purpose: for the user, it powers the phone's functionality, and for Google, it transmits information about the user for the purpose of displaying relevant advertising.

Such information-gathering capability is unprecedented. Google has become the world's largest spy organization, also known as a digital advertising company, without the constraints imposed on government spy agencies. Gathering information about users is big business for many technology companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft).

This article presents steps that an Android user can take to minimize the amount of information being collected while preserving the essential functionality of the phone. I wrote this article based on my experience with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow on the Moto G4 Play.


Tip #1: Do not sign up for a Google account

This is obvious for the privacy-minded.


Tip #2: Turn off the phone's Wi-Fi

I no longer allow the phone to connect to my home Wi-Fi because doing so enabled Google to link Internet activity on the phone with Internet activity on my personal computers based on a common IP address. I want them to remain separate. The cellular data service (128kbit/second and 2GB/month) is more than adequate for occasional fat-fingering the Internet.


Tip #3: Do not read IMAP email with the Gmail client

I no longer supply the login credentials for my IMAP email account to the Android Gmail client. Doing so enabled Google to data-mine my email. Instead, I read email using Mozilla Thunderbird on my personal computers.


Tip #4: Disable Javascript in Chrome

I recommend this action for all web browsers. A lot of websites work fine without Javascript. Javascript should be enabled only for sites that do not work without it.


Tip #5: Periodically perform a Factory Data Reset

I wipe the phone every six months.


Tip #6: Power-off the phone when not in use

Hold down the power button until the power-off prompt appears.

Powering-off the phone completely eliminates location tracking and robocalls. As a bonus, the phone's battery lasts for months on a charge.

This measure is workable because today's callers rarely expect a human to answer the phone.


Conclusion

Much has been written about the battle for marketshare between smartphones and personal computers. Here, the personal computer retains a unique advantage: the ability to install a third-party operating system that is genuinely useful and does not spy on the user.

I find that the phone is best used for making voice calls, text messaging, and occasional web browsing. Personal computers running Slackware Linux handle the bulk of my computing needs.