I think we can all agree that if you want a cellphone that is 100% private then don’t use a cellphone!
Cellphones will (very nearly) always be tracking devices! Simple as that! Now the question is what do you really need it for? Is it social media? And if so, is it something like Twitter? If yes, why not look at something like a decentralized service like Mastodon or consider nitter.net,. Perhaps look at using RSS to pull tweets. An example of this can be seen at https://nitter.net/DecentralToday/rss
However, what if it is something more sinister like Facebook?
everyone else is so I have too... - friends
If your friends are causing you to think this then you probably have one of three options!
1.) Get new friends
2.) Get them into another service like Riot and prove you are a real friend
3 ) You stay on Facebook, you don’t block anything, use any phone you want and whilst you're at it why not send your fingerprints to the postal service, basically give up all of your privacy and be done with it!.
Or do you only use your phone to call or SMS, in which case, just get a 'burner', a 'dump phone'! An old Nokia 3310, not the new generation of the 3310, but the original 'indestructible' one. The battery life is much better and you don’t have to worry about location tracking (except when 'there is real surveillance on you and you're tracked between cell towers)..
Maybe your usage extends to doing some researching and wanting to be accessible (perhaps with Signal or Riot or Threema or Telegram), want a browser, want to get your daily RSS and take some pictures then maybe a lineage powered phone is the best way to go. In fact, it is probably your best bet all round when it comes to privacy.
I personally had an iPhone for years because it worked. Don’t laugh, it did (and still does for others!).Apps are smooth, they don't let you down and you can block with nextDNS or with your own VPN + blocklist or with your own blocklist and DNS Level via DNSCloak.
iOS Paranoid - Blocks most Apple Analytics and requests (Push and App Store works)
Apple & iOS - Apple Telemetary
iOS Ads - Careful might block more than you want but we use it!!
AdGuard Safari - Safari Browser Ads
It works and it’s not Google! So perhaps that’s an option, it also has a great camera.
But even as Apple claim they are now in beta for turning off location services, they are still tracking you. Personally, it’s a choice you need to make. I hated switching off my iPhone and seeing the location service still tracking in the top left corner of the screen. I also hate how many domains are constantly connecting to Apple servers. Sure we have a blocklist in place but not even that totally solves it! Apple provides 4 lists that disclose more than a few of their domains, and yet, in the name of the 'Wee man', why are there still Apple domains beyond that which are still connecting, at any time and around the clock!?! Does Apple even know?!?
I have also always had a Galaxy Note, I've had every single one from the Note 1 to the latest Note 10+.
I love the pencil (yes! a pencil can be mightier than a sword) but I hate that every time I open the camera app it connects to a Samsung server! Why? The camera app has no business nor need to be online, likewise the Gallery app? Why? And even if you switch that off in Android 9 or 10 inside Settings, it still connects! WTF? Sure, you can kill that with NetGuard or AdGuard, and I sure do but then there are also so many other 'Bloatwares' for which I didn’t sign up for and which you just can’t remove. Like the Facebook crap that is pre-installed, like bixby which no-one wants, or all the Google apps and Framework that I don’t need or sign up for. And the connections to some Chinese servers (.cn), which have absolutely no business being on the phone.
As to desirable blocklists, this should cover most of it for you:
CHEFKOCH - NSA Blocklist
CHEFKOCH - Canvas font fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Audio fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Canvas fingerprinting
CHEFKOCH - Trackers
CHEFKOCH - Facebook
Samsung - Snooping
GoodByeAds - Great list of Ads blocked
Yhosts - Great list!
Crimeflare - Cloudflare domains
Android - Android Ads and Tracking
Add your selections manually via AdGuard
Go to Settings -> Content Blocking -> Filters -> User rules and enter
Sure you can adb as well that will kinda keep that stuff away, for the current user, but it’s still on the phone! And yes, you can freeze it with apps, but it’s still there! And Samsung still 'phones' home, why? Because data is king and yours can be collected for free!!! We have write ups coming on this soon so stay tuned.
During our research we went over Nokia, BlackBerry (oh boy, I miss the BB10, don’t judge me, it was awesome and I am not 18 anymore, I loved it and I miss it) but we also tested iOS, OPPO and other brands, we went through a bunch of providers, just to find the one that stuck out.
The OnePlus7 Pro with Lineage is the pick we recommend.
When it comes to privacy, it’s second to none. That said, the camera (on Lineage) feels like a 3 year old phone. Don’t get me wrong, it takes pictures, but compare it to the latest Samsung’ or iPhones and it doesn't look great!
So we didn't give up and attempted to make the iOS as secure as possible as the iPhone camera is great and we went through the same with the Galaxy Note 10+ and we had success on both.
We had never had a Huawei in our hands. I had just never felt the urge to try this horrific company and its products, the company that triggered a trade war, money laundered, broke sanctions, embedded malware etc etc etc because you know...evil! And then I said to myself "should I believe everything that I read?" ...seeing is believing, so I went into the Huawei store.
There they recommended the P30 Pro because '"t has google on it, and the Mate 30 Pro doesn’t!"
And I went...."come again?" "It has no Google on it , sir.! No Google Framework, no Playstore and you can’t install it.. If you want to use Facebook it is not easy, sir" and I'm like "wait! what?"
So I purchased the Mate 30 Pro, just to see how it was being exploited to spy on me for the Chinese (as opposed to the NSA and the PRISM project). A brief check on a China database told me that they have 1.4 billion people to spy on, so logically, wouldn’t they be busy enough doing that?
I didn't sign in to the Huawei cloud, nor used the store, I blocked it after the first update of all apps using AdGuard and I've monitored it since that day. I've monitored every single connection, in and out, just as I did with Samsung and Apple and I found that there are domains connecting to the phone, of course they do, for the store, and updates and whatever else is needed on a phone and I am sure a bit more. So why wouldn’t Huawei collect a few bits of data for the Chinese version of the NSA? But, to be totally open and honest, it was so much less than Samsung and the iPhone to be barely measurable...yes! Big WOW!.
That stated, there is no reason why we can't attempt to tidy things up further so here is a Huawei blocklist:
Huawei - Huawei cloud and domain list
Short but sweet!
The camera is outstanding and it doesn't connect to any server during use nor does the Gallery app. I have AdGuard at home monitoring everything, I have an additional WiFi to monitor on Pi-Hole and I have AdGuard on the Huawei and there is NO traffic so compare and contrast that with a Samsung or iPhone which connect when using apps like the gallery or the camera. It also has a pen, it doesn't comes with a pen as standard but you can separately purchase the m-pen on the Huawei store.
Now I don’t want to end up sounding like an advertisement for a phone or a company what has a bad reputation thanks to a trade war or because they are Chinese.. I am just posting my findings and we will dig deeper into Huawei, the company and it's products, as we go after all companies in the coming weeks, but so far for me this is the Cinderella Story, the Ugly Sister who turned out to be a beautiful person, and the one that provides me with an unusual daily drive!
In other words, I went from iOS to Samsung to OnePlus with Lineage to Huawei. I have no Facebook or Google connection on either phone. I don't have a crazy amount of domains to block and the phone as an amazing battery life, because, it turns out, if a phone doesn't call home all the time, you can get multiple more days out of it.
I am not endorsing Huawei but I can’t find any evidence that it is spying on me! I will keep on digging and monitoring and report back to as we move along.
Just two more sections to go in Chapter 5 of the Privacy Cookbook before we move into Chapter 6 - Computers & Software. Stay safe, people!