A major threat to your privacy emanates from your smart phone. These devices have become central medium of social interaction for everyone. Android is the only open source platform among the popular smart phone operating systems. But even with Android your privacy is under attack as large corporations have figured out that data is the new oil. Android privacy threats, for the scope of this article, are of three kinds: emanating from the device itself, emanating from third-party apps, emanating from your carrier. In this article I try to explain how to counter these three categories of threats to an extent where you can still use your phone, you don’t need any technical knowledge and you don’t pay anything.
Privacy threats from the device itself: A new device may contain pre-loaded apps and services from carrier or from the manufacturer. Such apps are referred to as bloatware. These preloaded apps have a potential to share your data with your carrier or manufacturer.
Solution: You should simply disable all such apps.
Privacy threats from third-party apps: Majority of third-party apps are not open source which means you don’t know what these apps actually do with your phone. YouTube, Instagram, PayTM are all examples of such apps. In fact majority of apps sold on Google Play Store are proprietary in nature.
Solution: Use only open source apps from F-Droid or other providers. Stop using Play Store, only first few days would be painful, you will slowly discover the beauty of being free from proprietary software. Using F-Droid for example you replace YouTube with NewPipe which is way better than official YouTube app in terms of functionality.
Now, there are apps which you simply cannot do without e.g. Facebook, Instagram etc. Such apps can be replaced with their web version using WebApps.
Privacy threats from carrier: Everything you do on Internet using your phone is recorded by your carrier. All data traffic from your phone has to go through carrier’s servers. Carriers maintain logs of all websites you visit, every video you play and sometimes even your passwords can be stored. There are definite laws in India as to what can and what cannot be logged by carriers! In short, they have got you!
Solution: Use an anonymous VPN which doesn’t keep a log. With VPN in place, carrier cannot see your data or requests, i.e. now carrier doesn’t know which website you visit or how long do you stay there. Free VPNs such as FreeVPN.se can be used.
If you have questions, please feel free to comment below.