Android Privacy Tips
This green guy is a spy
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
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
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
I recommend this action for all web browsers. A lot of websites work
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
This measure is workable because today's callers rarely expect a human
to answer the phone.
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.