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Are There Any Smartphones That Respect Privacy? 478

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the introducing-google-cave-view dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After many years I am finally considering entering the smartphone era. Within the mainstream, there seem to be four OS choices: Windows, Android, Blackberry, or iOS: Android comes out as clear winner to me. However, all of the choices in one way or another require sharing a lot of personal information in the Cloud run by their respective corporations. Let alone Blackberry's centralized mail servers; there is no way to have an Android smartphone working decently without sharing all of your contacts, calendar appointments, and other stuff with Google. While Android is less intrusive than iOS, the lack of privacy remains quite annoying no matter how comfortable it is to have your own calendar and contacts centralized. In 2011 is there any option, other than living in a cave, to keep one's own life private while enjoying the wonders of modern smartphone apps?"
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Are There Any Smartphones That Respect Privacy?

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  • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:03PM (#38131168)
    And I'm serious. While not as versatile towards own-hosted solutions as the old Windows Mobiles, it's still light years beyond Android and iOS. You can easily use your own Exchange server to sync and share your contacts, calendar and other stuff, which gives you true privacy. It also doesn't leak data to Google like Android does, it doesn't have the malware problem that Android has [techcrunch.com] and the phone itself is a full smart phone with an great UI (Windows Mobile somewhat started lacking in this in recent years).

    The reason for this is simple too. Microsoft may be many things, but they have always respected privacy. In fact, they have never really cared about personal data the way Google does. All they want to do is sell you the software and be done with it. Google, on the other hand, gives you the software for free but then keeps tracking your every move. I rather choose the first one, but i guess it's everyone's own choice. I do value my privacy though.

    The only time when you need contact with other servers is to download and install apps, which imo is a stupid decision fueled by iOS and Android doing it that way. Old Windows Mobiles always allowed you to install apps the way you wanted, the desktop Windows way. However, I guess that provides some extra security.

    Nokia has also just unveiled Nokia Lumia 800 [nokia.co.uk], which looks really slick and has been praised by the people who have tested it. Personally I'm going to wait until it's released and read a few more user reviews, but I think that's going to be my next smart phone.

    There is also Nokia's MeeGo-based linux phone, N9 [nokia.com] which is really slick and has all the features you need, too. But support for that might be worse in the future, as Nokia is mostly going to do WP7 phones now.
  • I'm curious, "OP" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:06PM (#38131196)

    Why does Android come out as a clear winner for you, and why do you think that iOS is intrusive?

  • by plover (150551) * on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:06PM (#38131200) Homepage Journal

    OK, so you say you're concerned about the security of your list of contact phone numbers and addresses. Yet when you want to call the contact, you ask your cellular provider via the GSM network to establish the connection. When you email the contact you use the 4G network to access the internet, and send your email to them, secured only on the hop between your phone and your SMTP server, but otherwise probably being transmitted in cleartext. When you bring up their address in the map, you give Google the locations of every place you view. And every where you go, whether it be to a calendar appointment or just out for a stroll, the cell phone is broadcasting your identity and approximate location to anyone interested in such things.

    I think distrusting Google wouldn't be first on the list of privacy actions to take.

    Not having a cell phone would go a lot further protecting your privacy, but you said you don't want the cave option. Get a Kindle Fire (wi-fi only, only when you want it), root it, and add only GPL software you trust, including a SIP client. Carry a Sprint wi-fi hotspot, turning it on only on your terms. Or carry a dumb phone (Sony Ericsson makes one) then use Bluetooth to tether the smart device. Instead of the Kindle Fire, you could use an iPod touch.

    You could even carry an iPhone. To the best of my knowledge, Apple isn't scraping my contact list. Yet. I think.

  • Any reason you could not just get an Android phone and then just say no, when it ask you for permission for your location data? It only ask once.

    Then you just need not to add your google account, and you will be free of the cloud.

  • by cheeks5965 (1682996) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:12PM (#38131244)
    It's not about what is stored in the cloud. It's about what the provider does with this info, and what their motivations are. Rim, Apple, and Microsoft are all hardware or software vendors. Their goal is to sell you a phone and make you use it / like it.

    Google is an information vendor their goal is to give you a phone / phone OS so you use it, then spy on you to find out what you like and where you go, and sell that information to others to make a profit.

    So if you're concerned about who is intrusive, then don't use Android.

  • by forevermore (582201) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:13PM (#38131266) Homepage
    I didn't have to create an iCloud account to use my iPhone. I don't sync my location, contacts, mail, etc. with iCloud. I back my phone up to my own computer. I struggle to see how this is more intrusive than Android, which required that I sync everything with Google. Granted, I *do* sync everything on my iPhone with Google, but that's another question entirely.
  • by leoplan2 (2064520) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:14PM (#38131274)
    Microsoft may be many things, but they have always respected privacy.

    That's why Microsoft got a lot of criticism because of the phoning home feature of WGA right? Or that's why MS gives your info to the government even without your consent. Or that's why Microsoft collected PC and phones locations in ther Web map services...

    You should inform yourself a little more, all that glitters is not gold
  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 @ g m a i l.com> on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:21PM (#38131340)

    I will second the AC's point - why is Android a "clear winner" while iOS is "more intrusive"?

    Not that I necessarily disagree, I am just interested in how you came to that conclusion.

    FWIW, you don't have to share your contacts and calendars "in the cloud" in iOS - it's entirely optional, and you can sync solely through your home machine if you like. If you don't want to share personal info with Apple at all then you can set up a throwaway email account for your Apple ID and top it up using iTunes Gift Cards if you want to spend any more on the store (you *do not* need to give them a credit card at any stage).

    Then turn off all the location services, and I'm not seeing how iOS is any more or less intrusive than Android is.

    YMMV, of course. Pick the best phone for the job - if you're buying new, the Galaxy II S and the iPhone 4S are both excellent if you decide to go Android/iOS.

  • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:22PM (#38131344)

    Or that's why MS gives your info to the government even without your consent.

    Like Google and Apple does too, and every other US company. It's the law, they cant do anything about it. But since you can install and use Exchange with WP7, you can minimize effect of that. Not so with Google or Apple, which want all your data.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:24PM (#38131372)

    When it comes to privacy, I would have to eliminate Android. The very purpose of Android is to farm info via Google. Contrary to the open source stance, Google's business model is collecting and selling information.

    Windows might be a good choice. I haven't heard much yet regarding their newest offering and privacy but given their past stance as a provider of the OS for profit rather than selling your data, I would think at least in the privacy arena, MS themselves should be ok. Malware wise, I also haven't heard of a lot of issues yet regarding their mobile offering. Ironically it's obscurity (read: lack of popularity) may actually provide it some safety in that regard.

    Apple is also a possible selection if you don't mind the walled garden. Apple's curated garden also tends to keep the instances of malware down so the possibility of getting your information mined via third party app seems to be far less than Android. Apple is also like Microsoft in that regard that they aren't in the business of selling your personal data.

    RIM is another that is much like MS and Apple in that they sell hardware for profit. The only drawback with RIM is that you must pipe your data through RIM's servers. They have the added benefit of being vetted by many corporations so that may be a deciding factor.

    Of the 4 I'd either choose Apple or MS based on your criteria (arguments about open source/evil brouhaha, etc. disregarded as they weren't part of your question).

  • by Weezul (52464) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:27PM (#38131396)

    Apple and Microsoft would be worse than Google because Google at least (a) has caught NSLs and (b) published statistics on government data requests. Yes, Google is better at trying to sell you stuff, but that's mostly harmless. And paradoxically Google's skill at selling you stuff is why they don't sell the raw data to anybody else.

    Your phone company would however be much worse than all three, given the depth of their existing relationship with authorities. In addition, your phone company has the least competence in advertising, making them the greatest chance of selling your raw data to advertisers.

    Ergo, it doesn't much matter what phone you use. Worry more about the carrier.

  • by PerlJedi (2406408) Works for Slashdot on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:30PM (#38131434) Homepage Journal

    I seriously doubt that, since it has a locked-down app store and sandboxed applications (fairly restricted API's, no native code.) It should be at least as secure as iPhone OS, if not more so.

    All software (iOS included) is vulnerable. I would think WP7 will probably have more problems than iOS on the basis that Microsoft has basically always put speed to market above quality or stability of software.

  • by sombragris (246383) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:43PM (#38131562) Homepage

    And even though it was launched in 2009, it offers a boatload of features that other phones don't even try to match: the Nokia N900 [wikipedia.org].

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:44PM (#38131568) Homepage

    Uhm... you do know a BES still connects through RIM's network and servers right?

  • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:51PM (#38131632)

    Every single story I've read so far about malware on Android was people either installing apps off the internet or through a third-party app store. How is Google not doing a good job removing harmful apps from the market?

    That's basically just as true for Windows on desktop. Still people on Slashdot bash Microsoft's security, while it's the users installing them from untrusted sources.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday November 21, 2011 @09:53PM (#38131644) Homepage Journal

    ...on the basis that Microsoft has basically always put speed to market above quality or stability of software.

    Is that why Microsoft's flagship operating system was Windows XP for like a decade before they finally came out with Vista?

    Yeah, that "speed to market" thing was really not that obvious.

  • by Fri13 (963421) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:08PM (#38131756)

    And I'm serious. While not as versatile towards own-hosted solutions as the old Windows Mobiles, it's still light years beyond Android and iOS. You can easily use your own Exchange server to sync and share your contacts, calendar and other stuff, which gives you true privacy. It also doesn't leak data to Google like Android does, it doesn't have the malware problem that Android has [techcrunch.com] and the phone itself is a full smart phone with an great UI (Windows Mobile somewhat started lacking in this in recent years).

    Stop spreading false information.

    Android is possible to be configured from the beginning only to use any exchange server as well. You do not need to use any Google services or applications if you do not want to do so.

    What comes to malware, so long most serious problems has been in third party resources for applications. And those few in official market, have not been so bad or anything serious. Still, I don't reject that there ain't possibility or anything else. but it is now so widely spread FUD about it that it is already a non-proofed truth.

    And Windows Phone 7 GUI shares opinions very well. And that matter is out of the line here in this topic as well, what is about question of privacy concerning contacts and addresses of everyones elses who phone owners has stored to own phone. So far Windows Phone GUI has nothing to do with it, so bringing it to hype it as biased user does not help at all in this discussion.

    When you can buy a Windows Phone where there are no single Microsoft service or application installed or need to be used, then come back to talk with the GUI.
    Android is more secure and protects much better way the users privacy than your "Windows Phone GUI is awesome" phone does. (The other topic is then how much it is protected or informed the user about risks and same discussion can be gone trough again with any software system out there).

    The only time when you need contact with other servers is to download and install apps, which imo is a stupid decision fueled by iOS and Android doing it that way. Old Windows Mobiles always allowed you to install apps the way you wanted, the desktop Windows way. However, I guess that provides some extra security.

    Android does not force to use only online services to install applications. User can download application, save it where wanted (dropbox, FTP, webdav, microSD... you name it) and then install it with filemanager to Android device.
    The one problem is with Android Market is that you can not download directly from there. But you can install application from there using any web browser (desktop, laptop or even iOS devices or Windows Phone phone) and it gets installed to your Android phone next time you have internet connection (WiFi, 3G etc) and it was activated to Google services and you have Market application installed with Google profile.

    So don't spread lies that Android does not allow installing applications with old fashion way as it does. Even I do so sometimes when I want to install non-official Google Maps version where is just enabled navigation every country. And I don't even need a any Google account for that.

    PS. N9 does not have MeeGo in it. It has Harmattan. Harmattan and MeeGo are two different products and development branches. Harmattan were code name for Maemo 6.0 (5.0 is in N900) and MeeGo was project of Maemo 5.0 + Moblin.
    So do not talk about MeeGo when talking about N9 but only with Harmattan aka Maemo as that is used in it.

  • by sarhjinian (94086) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:22PM (#38131860)

    Agreed. If you want absolute privacy, your own BES is the way to go.

    And you can get BES Express for free (you lose some of management policies, but the core security stuff is there) though you'll need a mail/calendaring/contact server to hook it up to, which means (if you want to avoid Exchange) probably VMware's Zimbra.

  • by chrb (1083577) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:26PM (#38131894)
    No they don't. There is big difference between a) putting adverts in front of your eyeballs, and b) selling your information. One involves receiving money from a third party in exchange for putting an advert on your screen. The other involves transferring your personal information to a third party in exchange for money. The former is entirely legal and lightly regulated in most countries (advertising standards). The latter is more heavily regulated, and if they sold the personal data of Europeans they would be liable for criminal prosecution under Europe's Data Protection laws.

    You should probably post all of the context of that info as you seem to have cherry picked the ones that put things in the best light.

    I "cherry picked" the bit of the article that was relevant. Maybe you could highlight exactly where in your extended quote it says "Google sells your personal information", because I can't see it.

  • by rockout (1039072) on Monday November 21, 2011 @10:37PM (#38131948)

    A decade? Windows XP was 2003,

    Bullshit. XP was 2001, Vista was 2007. And he did say "like a decade", so fine, he rounded up. 6 years is like an eternity in between OSes anyway; it certainly felt like a decade by the time the long-promised "Longhorn" became reality.

    And Vista was a huge success too.

    Laughable. Probably the most hated OS released by anyone since Windows Millenium.

    How long between vista and 7? how long between 7 and 8? How about windows 98, me, and 2000?

    He was specifically only talking about the lag between XP and Vista. And you're missing his point entirely - even though it took 6 years, negating the "speed to market" point, the OS still sucked, so "quality of software" not really a valid point either. Basically what I'm saying is he ripped you apart in two short sentences, it went over your head, and I just wasted 3 minutes of my life explaining it to you.

  • by exomondo (1725132) on Monday November 21, 2011 @11:10PM (#38132110)

    PS. N9 does not have MeeGo in it. It has Harmattan. Harmattan and MeeGo are two different products and development branches. Harmattan were code name for Maemo 6.0 (5.0 is in N900) and MeeGo was project of Maemo 5.0 + Moblin. So do not talk about MeeGo when talking about N9 but only with Harmattan aka Maemo as that is used in it.

    Better get on the horn and tell Nokia they're marketing their phone wrong.

    The Nokia N9 smartphone, based on MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan [nokia.com]
    MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan: The Qt SDK now contains experimental toolchains and other experimental components to create MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan apps. [nokia.com]
    MeeGo Harmattan is a Linux-based software platform developed by Nokia for mobile devices. [nokia.com]

  • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @02:34AM (#38133012)

    Android is a Google product and Google's main business is selling advertising. Android just another channel for ad traffic for Google and so Google does not consider android users to be their customers. Rather, users of Google's services are the "product" sold to their real customers namely, advertisers.

    Given this nature of Google's "free" services, explain to me how Google is interested in preserving your privacy and not intruding on it?

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @05:01AM (#38133552)
    I would add that CyanogenMod has a "incognito mode" privacy feature. I would also add nothing really beats rooted Android with a short list of tweaks for privacy. It's also not as hard as you think, there's a lot of excellent work done by the modding community to make rooting relatively straightforward and a lot of the tweaks as simple as side-loading a simple app. It's pretty cool because it makes a lot of it quite of nerdy powerful things accessible to a wider range of people.

    Dare I say the modding community for Android is awesome.
  • Hard to Believe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @09:43AM (#38134674)

    I know this is hard to believe for most of you, but outside of your Moms' basements, the majority of users see these smartphone features and cloud services as a feature, not a security flaw.

    More importantly, there is continuum of convenience and security. Most of the world thinks you lot here err on the side of security, which compromises user friendliness (hello, ever try to get an entire office to install their certs correctly?) in favor of security. Most users err on the side of convenience, at the risk of security. The correct choice depends on each user's individual needs and situation, and these one-size-fits-all corporate IT policies you all love around here aren't always very good for Average Joe.

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