By Tyler W
May 02, 2023
Mobile Phone Privacy ROMs
I will openly admit that I sit on the extreme side of the privacy discussion, and whilst my approach rarely fits most people, I want to take this opportunity to share one my more favoured privacy attacks. That is effectively disabling the tracking devices we carry around in our pockets, our mobile phones. They are ubiquitous, required, but also a massive privacy invasion. Like most people, I need to be able to send emails on the run, be accessible via encrypted instant messaging, and also, to a lesser extent access the internet...oh yeah, and make phone calls! That is ultimately it though, and I encourage you to ask what you really need your phone to do too.
Once you answer this question, hopefully honestly, you may find yourself in a similar position to me, where your phone is a required tool for access purposes, and not a 'toy' or consumption device. When you get to this place, you can think about disabling the tracking features of your device so that Google (Android) or Apple know less and less about you, where you are, and where you have been. There are ways you can disable some of these features, specifically on Android, but I will also not be getting in to these now. Instead, I make a bold suggestion, consider moving away from Android and iOS.
Crazy, right, because what else is there? There are actually two privacy focussed mobile operating systems that I recommend and frequently deploy on engagements for clients, and these are GrapheneOS and LineageOS - both based on Android (& do require an Android device). GrapheneOS is my preferred operating system, but only runs on Google Pixel devices (yes, I appreciate the irony), while LineageOS does not allow locking the bootloader, but will run on many many more 'Android' devices.
Both of these operating systems effectively, if configured so, disable all of the 'Google Play' services, which means that you do not have access to the suite of Google services that come pre-installed on all Android handsets - such as Google Play. There are alternatives to each and every one of the apps that you think you need (Maps, Play Store, Youtube, Chrome) that respect your privacy, do not track you, and do not sell your data.
Installing these operating systems is very easy, and GrapheneOS even has a web installer to help you navigate it. It honestly is easy, and the change in operating systems will not inconvenience you as much as you think...in fact, I argue the lack of distraction apps, and notifications that come through (as not all apps will be able to push through notifications to you) will actually allow you to be more effective and efficient.
On average an Aussie will spend 2 hours and 49 minutes per day on their mobile device, and I question just how much of that is effective? I probably spend about 30 to 40 minutes on my phone a day, and every minute is deliberate, as a result of this change in operating systems, and mindset. That is the bonus side effect, and the purpose of the shift was, and is, to increase my online and device privacy.
Take back control of your pocket, your device, your time, and, most importantly your privacy by considering leaving Apple and Android behind. I appreciate there is a bit here, and not everyone will be up for the challenge and the change, but please consider it, and if you need help, or have queries, please do reach out.