Mobile Privacy - Getting Started

Sunday, July 10, 2022
Are you currently using Stock Android OS or an iPhone and looking to regain your privacy? Here you'll find everything you need to get started on your journey.

Last Updated - 2022-09-19 - v 0.1.8

πŸ”—What is this?

I put this page together in an attempt to make the task of buying, configuring, and using a private/secure alternate phone OS as easy as possible. If you're like some more info on the "why" check out this clip πŸ“Ί.

πŸ”—Choosing an OS

GrapheneOS is the only option I can recommend at this point for a phone Operating System. It's an Open Source project that puts privacy and security first. The OS only runs on Google Pixel devices, so that's the phone you'll need to use. Now that we know what OS we'll be installing:

Here's my most recent review video of GrapheneOS - https://youtu.be/hbs7EPSaauI πŸ“Ί.

I also took GrapheneOS on a road trip to test it out - https://youtu.be/rp--qY9eSYI πŸ“Ί.

πŸ”—Buying a phone

If you don't already own a Google Pixel that's supported by GrapheneOS, you'll need to purchase one. Before buying your device, you need to confirm that OEM Unlocking is supported. I cover that in this clip πŸ“Ί.

πŸ”—Where

  • Google - recommended if buying new
  • Swappa - recommended if buying used
  • Gazelle
  • eBay
  • Walk into a Best Buy with cash and purchase one.

International buyers, sorry. I'm only familiar with purchasing mobile devices in the US. If you'd like to make any suggestions, please reach out.

πŸ”—Installing GrapheneOS

Now that you have a device, it's time to install GrapheneOS πŸ“Ί. Once you have GrapheneOS installed, let's start with an overview of the stock apps installed πŸ“Ί, you only need to watch the first 1min12s of that video.

πŸ”—Cell service

If you have a physical SIM card, you can remove it from your old device and put it in your new one. If you have an eSIM, there's a few more steps involved in the eSIM setup πŸ“Ί

πŸ”—App Stores

Before deciding which app stores to use, check out this video πŸ“Ί for an overview of what's available and some basics.

πŸ”—Aurora Store

GrapheneOS doesn't come bundled with any app stores pre-installed, so we need to install them ourselves. The first app store I would suggest you install is called Aurora Store. Aurora Store allows you to download apps from Google Play store without having to install Google Play Store. Go to https://auroraoss.com in your mobile browser and download "Aurora Store x.x.x (Stable).

Once you have it installed you can watch this video πŸ“Ί on how to set it up.

πŸ”—F-Droid

A popular repository for Open Source Software (OSS) is F-Droid. F-Droid has some security concerns that I detail in this video πŸ“Ί.

To simplify it, here are the 3 options:

πŸ”—Sandboxed GPS

Google Play Services (GPS) are not installed by default. You might notice that notifications don't work for some Apps in GrapheneOS or maybe some apps fail to run (such as banking apps). The reason for this is that some apps depend on Google Play Service, but GrapheneOS doesn't have those. Luckily the developers provide a way to install Google Play Service Sandboxed, so you can have all the functionality available on a device with stock Android OS. GrapheneOS.org has a great write up on the details of the implementation that I would suggest reading.

In this video πŸ“Ί I show how to install Sandboxed Google Play services and some different configuration options available.

πŸ”—Profiles

Work Profiles vs User Profiles. In the Sandboxed Googlge Play Services video, I mentioned User Profiles. If you're interested in learning some more about those, check out this video πŸ“Ί.

πŸ”—Secure messaging

Text messages (SMS) are not secure or private. There are some great options out there which I cover in this video πŸ“Ί.

πŸ”—Contact/Calendar storage

Most of us use our phones for communicate with people and to store our calendars. If you're looking for a method that I would recommend, I detail those in the following videos.

πŸ”—Backup/Restore

Phones get lost/stolen everyday. Protect your data by taking a backup in case this happens to you.

πŸ”—Useful videos

πŸ”—What Next?

If you made it this far, then you should have a pretty solid foundation when it comes to a private/secure mobile device. I make videos every week on new things I learn and come across, so feel free to subscribe to stay up to date. The world of privacy and security is always changing. I make my videos with the best information I have available at the time, and it's likely that information will be out of data and something else will be "the best option". So if you feel lost and overwhelmed by everything you hear and see in the privacy community, don't worry…the feeling is mutual :).

πŸ”—Changelog

v 0.1.8 - Added Progressive Web Apps

v 0.1.7 - Added GrapheneOS Android 13 video

v 0.1.6 - Added video on eSIM

v 0.1.5 - Added video on sensors and network permission toggle

v 0.1.4 - Added video on phone wallpaper tracking

v 0.1.3 - Added video on apps I use and video on new GrapheneOS features.

v 0.1.2 - Added App store overview video.

v 0.1.1 - Fixed typos and adjusted formatting. Added TV emoji next to all video links.

v 0.1 - Initial Publication