Taking Google out of Android

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  1. Hi all, at the risk of angering android fans, I seek to find a way to remove google's influence over my android installation. I recently bought my first android phone, but I am bothered that a Google account was required to use the phone. A lot of the apps from voice search on down seem to send my personal data to google. All my settings and apps are stored with google.

    This worries me a lot. Google is a marketing company that can afford to make android free because we're willing to give up privacy to use its services. Our voice searches, locations, email, calendar everything is fed to the company so that it can "anonymize" it and turn it over to marketers.

    I don't like to give up my privacy. I'd like to use my phone as I do my PC. I don't want to be forced to create an account with one large surveillance company to use an open source OS. I don't want my voice searches sent off the phone and I definitely don't want to surrender my physical location.

    I want to root the phone and install a security and privacy driven custom ROM on it. I want to replace Google's privacy-intruding services with other options. Where there are no alternatives to Google, I want to find some way of running my searches through an anonymizer before sending it off to Google.

    Is this possible? What ROMs would be best suitable to this? Would the people at androidforums please help me achieve this?

  2. Rxpert83

    Rxpert83 Dr. Feelgood Moderator

    Welcome to the forums :D

    Anything you do on the PC is being tracked and monitored as well. Honestly, there's not really much you can do to get out of it other than using a different app store.

    Personally, I prefer a targeted ad to some random one
    ocnbrze likes this.
  3. EarlyMon

    EarlyMon The PearlyMon Moderator

    Roms will vary for your phone.

    You can cut off location services, contacts in the Google cloud, and if you have the apps you want, you can cut yourself off from the Play Store and other services, all without root.

    With root, you can customize further and if there's not a rom for your device to suit you, you can still block all access to ad sites, install DroidWall and even install a root app that takes away permissions from other apps.

    Android is all about choice.

    If yours is to cut off and away from the mother ship, there's nothing wrong with that, and nothing should stand in your way.

    Welcome to the forums! :)
  4. ocnbrze

    ocnbrze DON'T PANIC!!!!!!!!! Moderator

    welcome to the forums!!!!!!!

    i agree with rxpert. no matter what you do monitoring is being done. if it is really an issue then you might want to wait for the new blackberry that is rumored to be coming out and go away from any android device.

    you have the option to use your location for google it is not something that is mandatory.

    i do not mind that google has access to some of my info. i mean really what is the worst that can be done? do i feel my privacy is being invaded? no, so i do not see any issue here with google to be honest.

    rooting helps but it will depend on what phone you have on how easy it is to root it. you will still need to sign in to google, though if you want your contacts to be ported over.
  5. EarlyMon

    EarlyMon The PearlyMon Moderator

    There are a lot of our members who have accomplished what the op wants to do. Just saying. ;) :)
    Rxpert83 and ocnbrze like this.
  6. Rxpert83

    Rxpert83 Dr. Feelgood Moderator

    Do you know how?

    I'm just wondering how free you can actually get from data gathering. Google, your carrier, your manufacturer
  7. Digital Controller

    Digital Controller The Real Bass Creator Guide

    You can very well do this actually.

    I know people use Gmail accounts as dead accounts to basically just download applications but nothing else, while blocking all Google services on their device and use the default email application.

    You can also install certain firewalls and such that block and withhold your privacy further
    EarlyMon likes this.
  8. EarlyMon

    EarlyMon The PearlyMon Moderator

    Use CM as a base, strip it down. Some of the CleanRoms make an excellent starting point for an HTC as well, having targeted no carrier/maker chatter. If using a Prevail, I'd start with CTMod, Bloodawn cleaned up a lot there. So the rom to use as the starting point depends on the phone, but a number of rom devs care about this.

    Many of the Linux network and process monitoring tools are available to the savvy user, to confirm that traffic only goes out where expected.

    Finally, with a little more know how, many phones, certainly the Sprint HTCs and others, can have all network traffic routed through an anonymous proxy.

    Anything that your phone can do in airplane mode, it can do with the intrusive connections stripped out. And that's a lot.
    ocnbrze likes this.
  9. Gmash

    Gmash Well-Known Member

    Like EarlyMon mentioned, Droidwall is a great start for cutting off apps from "phoning home". Worth rooting just for that app alone.
    EarlyMon and ocnbrze like this.
  10. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    Want an Android phone free from Google's influence? Come here, we've got millions of them.

    By the way your carrier can see everything you're doing with your phone as well, there's no privacy. Want privacy? Don't use a cell-phone.
    ocnbrze and Mostly Harmless like this.
  11. Mostly Harmless

    Mostly Harmless Well-Known Member Contributor

    I really never understood why anyone would want to take the Google out of Android. Google is Android and their services are what makes Android run seamless throughout the day. When I sign into my Google account from any Android device the following automatically happens:

    -contacts get sync'ed up
    -gmail gets sync'ed up
    -music library gets sync'ed up
    -book library (including spots I left off) are sync'ed up from each device
    -bookmarks are sync'ed up
    -webpages across any chrome browser where I am signed in is sync'ed up
    -apps are sync'ed up

    I am really not trying to be rude but why buy into Android if you don't trust Google? Google is the company who gave us this great operating system.
    ocnbrze likes this.
  12. bigdrew

    bigdrew Well-Known Member

    Regardless of what ROM or phone you have, your carrier, email provider, and ISP are logging all of your activity--texts, emails, phone calls, location via towers, web sites visited and so forth. That data is being retained for your government to access when it chooses, or a hacker to break into. I'm a fairly private person myself, but this is honestly a losing battle for you.

    Also, my understanding has been that Google matches your profile to advertisers internally rather than selling the data to third parties, which is the opposite of what credit agencies do.
  13. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Well-Known Member

    On the Nexus, I can turn off all location. If I turn OFF the phone from here to there, someone will know where I was, and where I am now, but will not know how I got there or what I did in between. And we do turn off the phones. We tend to go where service is spotty, and no use killing the battery by having the phone search for a carrier.

    Go look at some of the southwestern maps for any carrier.

    Google can't match advertising. What I search for and buy isn't mainstream and those companies don't advertise mainstream type. I have most of everything I want, so I'm not interested.
  14. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Well-Known Member

    I haven't got any of that on the phone - that's why. I don't NEED the services.
    I use GSM, so contacts are on the SIM.
    I don't use a book library on the phone - I buy the books or get free ones. They are stashed on the computer. Not the phone or tablet. I won't use either Nook or Kindle apps. I simply don't like the TOS of either.

    I also don't let apps update automatically. I look first. I will also use the computer since the pc version gives you more info than the mobile version.

    I don't keep passwords anywhere - I type them in each time.
    I'm slowly using Gmail for trash. I have accounts elsewhere.
    I have all browsers set to delete everything on close. I don't keep history. If using Iron on the computer - I delete history manually after each use. It isn't paranoia, it's SPITE.

    You can use another search engine on the phone. I use Startpage or Duck.

    I only turn on GPS for stargazing.

    I'd rather have written instructions if I'm driving. That way I don't have to turn down the music in the truck (If I'm alone) That's where most of my music is - on a USB stick and in the sound system.

    The phone does have the apps I want, I can search for answers, or the dimensions of something I forgot to measure before I left the house. I can write myself notes on stuff I don't want to forget. I can also take pictures of the same. I can check the weather maps. I can make a phone call. I can look up a bird or plant. I don't need location or maps. If a place wants my business, it can give me directions. I'm paying the carrier to use the phone for my convenience. It's a Nexus S and rooted.

    MS has a decent OS - but I don't use their services, either. (Or any MS programs)
    Linux at least gives me a choice -
  15. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    Are you just storing names and phone numbers?

    I use GSM myself, but at the same time many of my contacts have multiple phone numbers like office, home and mobile, email addresses, IM names, QQ numbers, street adresses, photos, etc. I do use Google for this and I backup them to the phone's SD-card and PC as well. I think my SIM is 32kilobytes, so there's no way it could store all my stuff. All my contact data is just over 3megabytes.

    I also Linux, because I do like the choice. :)
  16. Thanks for your welcome, everybody!
    Just so you know, I have the Google Galaxy Nexus, running on the Wind Network in Canada.

    This is what annoys me. Google could have offered to create an export file with your contacts list, settings and app data with the option to upload it online for your convenience. But they insist that you send them this very data and they're storing the info of hundreds of millions of Android phones at great expense out of the goodness of their heart and desire to live up to their corporate motto?

    I don't think so.

    Android is supposedly about choice, and google gives you choices like how your wallpaper should be and whether you can a five or six icon row. But you don't really have a choice to not send them your data, do you? You need a google account just to turn on your phone. Odd that they don't offer you the right to use a third party for this. No, only google must have access to your data.

    And on the Galaxy Nexus, just like most of google's phones, there is no memory slot. Their philosophy seems to be that local storage is bad; let the people send everything to us and store everything on our servers. Am I being paranoid here? Maybe, but there's a pattern here. And they're building ChromeOS in the same vein, with everything running through google's servers.

    From my limited experience with Android, you don't seem choices about anything that matters. Relative to Apple, you have plenty of choice, but its superficial and only gives you an illusion of choice.

    I know my carrier sees a lot of what I do, but perhaps I can get around some of it with a VPN? The world seems to be collecting data on individuals. Governments certainly are, and businesses like Google and Facebook makes billions selling what they know about you. Is it wrong to not want people to be compiling databases on me?

    The Nazis were able to do so much damage with just the records of your ancestry. If things go south, what can they do with all the information that you've voluntarily given up? We've given them a ton of personal info to hang us with.

    It's sad, because if the government were to pass a law mandating surveillance of your internet service and life, we'd be up in arms. But if someone offers us a shiny gadget and the chance to play farmville, we rush to give up our privacy to get our hands on it.

    I trust Microsoft more with my personal data than with I do Google. Microsoft has software products that they sell to make their profts. Google makes money by selling what they know about me. That makes me uncomfortable.

    Note how many times you sent your personal information to Google in that list you gave me? That's what they sell. You're okay with it but some people don't like giving away such personal information so that others can sell it.

    Indulge my paranoia please, but tell me in history, how often has this kind of information been used against the individual? We live in a peaceful part of the world that has not known outright repression in decades or centuries, but the past is no guarantor of the future. The future might be a bleak dystopia where the personal information you gave away will come back to haunt you, but that doesn't have to happen for you to realise that privacy is an important right. Giving out personal information to a corporation that makes money off it is never a good idea.

    I like open source, so I want Android, but I don't want to pay for it the way google wants. Paying $10,000 for an iphone might be cheaper in the long run when you consider what google wants in return for a free OS.

    Well, I can surrender and willingly give up my privacy. But I'm not going to do that. I want to minimize the information others collect on me.

    I want the option of choosing what happens to my personal information. I don't want to be forced into service with or give up my personal info to a multi-national corporation just to use the general purpose PC in my pocket.

    I'd like some real choice, not just choice over the superficial. I want control over my phone despite what Google wants me to do. If I can't choose to take Google out of Android, does Android really offer any choice? Is it any freer than iOS? Apple may dictate to me my OS experience, but so far as I know, it isn't going Big Brother on me. By my measure, Android may offer less choice. I want an open source OS that doesn't spy on me.

    I have a Galaxy Nexus. Are there any custom ROMs that focus on user security and privacy? If not, would anyone be interested in starting one? I'm not a programmer, but I'd help however I could.
  17. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    ocnbrze likes this.
  18. chanchan05

    chanchan05 The Doctor Guide

    1. Not sure about Nexus as I haven't used one. But Samsung offers a Google-Free experience on their phones should you want it. You could use the phones without even registering/activating a Google account on it. My sister used her Galaxy Fit for two weeks before I started to wonder why she wasn't able to download any games at all (which was because the phone was not associated with a Google account). Without any Google activation, they won't even know that the phone you own is already out of the box AFAIK.

    2. Contacts could be saved into a phone only memory which does not sync to Google. I know HTC, Motorola, Sony and Samsung has this option, but not sure about your Nexus.

    Basically, I could factory reset my Samsung devices, and on startup skip the Google activation and just use the phone. I can still get many apps from legit sources like Samsung's own AppStore for Android, and Amazon. That's probably as Google free as you can get: No Google service running at all with your login.
  19. mikedt

    mikedt 你好 Guide

    Microsoft has Bing, are they really any different to Google?

    You know about the government backdoors into Windows and other MS software? US, China, etc.

    I use Linux myself.
    ocnbrze likes this.
  20. Gmash

    Gmash Well-Known Member

    I can understand it, it is a little Big Brother-ish if you think about it. I don't blindly trust Google or any other company, and Google hasn't always been the most trustworthy when it comes to privacy. Personally I'm too lazy to go as far as the op is talking about, but cheers to those willing to make the effort. Remember that when something is given to us for free, either Google, Android, or Facebook, etc, we are no longer consumers, we are the product being sold. Some of us have more tolerance for that than others.
  21. Crashdamage

    Crashdamage Well-Known Member

    1. If you trust Microsoft at all, sorry but you're a fool. Ditto for Apple. Actually, who do you - should you - trust?

    2. You don't have to give Google any personal info whatsoever to use Android. So what's the problem?

    3. It's 2013. If you want true privacy you can't use a phone, email, texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc or the internet in any way. No snail mail either. No credit cards or bank accounts. And look out for security cameras. A hoodie and sunglasses help.

    Linux user #266351. Android since v1.0
  22. Yes, pass me the tinfoil! Google's out to get me! :)

    I was making a point. I don't trust Microsoft at all and I trust Google even less because I'm their source of revenue.

    So, I had got a few suggestions before:

    Root and install Cyanogenmod.
    Droidwall to block permissions.

    What else can I do? Let's make a list for paranoid crazies like me. :D
  23. fdbryant3

    fdbryant3 Well-Known Member

    Data like any other tool can be used for good or ill.

    There is a lot of new advances in many areas of science that is coming from access to large annonymized data sets. More accurate health screening. Better predictions on wher a disease is spreading. Better traffic management. Better energy management. Better weather and climate predictions. On and on and on in ways we haven't even begun to imagine.

    Can it be abused? Certainly as you say history has shown that. Of course since it is history it means not having access to this data hasn't done a damn thing to stop it. If anything I would suggest it is because we didn't have access to this sort of data that allowed these sort of abuses to happen.

    I am sure you'd like to tell me about the evils of big government and big business. Fine that is want vigilence is for, to keep them in line and in check. For all the examples of abuses you can come up with take a moment to consider the actual world we live in and how much of it is shaped by that government and those businesses. Would you really want to give up things like electricity, modern food, modern medicine, communication, transportation, the Internet, etc, etc. Even our desitute have better lives because of the governement and businesses.

    Yes it isn't a perfect world. There is a lot that still needs improving and made more efficient. We have a big problem in distribution. In a lot of areas we have more than plenty to support everyone. What we don't have is ways of being able to efficiently distribute those resources. It isn't even a matter of greed, just that it simply isn't sustainably feasible to try and do so. A lot of those answers are going to come from studying the private data that is being gathered by the multitude of sources.

    Does this mean we have to give up complete privacy? I don't believe so. Nor is my point to convince you to use Google or even take off your tinfoil hat. My point is for all the fear you have of what could happen and trying to hide from it, the world is becoming a better place by what is happening. Fear of tyranny is tyranny itself. The answer isn't to grab our guns and lock ourselves away in a bunker (although that would be the only way you get true privacy) but to be vigilant and hold companies and government responsible to do lets say the better things and minimize the worst.

    Try and consider the potential good, for you personally and for society with as much weight as you consider the potential bad (granted we actually aren't wired to do that well, but try anyway).
    Rxpert83 likes this.

    KENNECTED Well-Known Member

    welcome. I have a question, didn't you know about android and how your device would operate before purchasing? I dont get emails or ad in emails on my desktop or mobile device. Sound like you need to know more about Google & android before doing something so drastic.

    Why buy an Android device is you don't want the functionality of the device.
  25. All good points. But not directly relevant, because there is no good reason for Google to design Android so that I must make available to it my contacts list. Only Google wins by doing that. At best I gain access to an OS, at worst I end up in a gulag.

    Individuals and entities have always tried to rig the system to profit themselves the most. And it's up to people to protest when they do that. I can't force Apple or Microsoft to change their policies or OS, but with an open source OS, I can do something to reduce the reaming that Google's trying to give me.

    I had assumed that in an open source system there would be choice. I thought of it as a mobile version of Ubuntu. I thought at worst it would be like Windows 8 where I would be offered the option to link the Windows account to Sky drive.

    I don't think there was a skip option available in stock Android. Never did I dream that there would be no choice at all. Link to Google or don't use the phone. I thought a requirement like that would prompt protests in front of Google's offices. Instead, people are sitting here complacently handing Google all the information it wants in exchange for a toy. I still can't believe it.

    Why is it that if the government were to demand your a list of all the people you know and your plans for the next couple of weeks, that would be a major problem but if Google does it by calling it backing up your contacts list and calendar to their cloud, it's all hunky dory and I'm a tinfoil hat wearing lunatic? If the government wanted all your data, why threaten and demand when people are eagerly throwing their data at you? They could go directly to Google and demand that they turn it over. And what could Google do?
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