Believe it or not, it is astonishingly easy to own a smartphone without immediately succumbing to the hunger for private data of big tech companies like Google or Apple. You only need either money or time, and the knowledge where to buy your next device.

This is how you get there.

Our company doesn’t attempt to provide you a service in exchange for your data. Instead, you voluntarily give us your data, and you receive nothing in return.

wesellyourdata.com, basically google but with less service

Who of those with knowledge in Open-Source doesn’t know this sentence: “I know Google is bad, bad you can’t escape them nowadays”. Often, at least my never-ending optimism leads me to believe that, they also want to hide a feeling of helplessness stating obvious lies like “I don’t have anything to hide” (everyone does). And I can really much understand the sentiment; how are you supposed to avoid being tracked when every single person got their own tracking device full of sensors, microphones and cameras on them, every car got an uplink sharing anything they possibly can and many homes are full of devices specifically designed to monitor the surroundings, providing yet-to-be-necessary comfort functions. Any boundary of privacy seem to have fallen, as people even began wearing smartwatches, their telemetry happily uploading your most private information about your body to Google. And even if all of those things offer you a great deal of comfort, many people slowly realize that paying with all that you are to gain a little bit of comfort and funny gimmicks is an awful trade that’ll eventually bite you in the back.
As I grew up in Germany just after the berlin wall fell and the crimes of the STASI came to light, a situation just like ours in 2022 would’ve been unthinkable. The thought of paying for a device in the kitchen you’ll end up mostly using to create timers or listen to music that permanently got microphones and cameras directed towards you? Preposterous! Yet, in merely 20 years, people not just got so fascinated by technology that seem straight out of Star Trek (even though I don’t know why I need a talking toaster with firmware updates), they bought into it and started peer-pressuring everyone else into stripping to the buff – or, well, to the Zuck’.

Winnie Xi Puuh Ping, happily listening to your private data. (source)

There’s another reason you should care about your privacy too, and that is governmental control. For modern governments, the data we accumulate about ourselves are like a mountain of candy for a myriad of reasons. Not just good ones, like calculations about infrastructure and where to build a new hospital – but even more for surveillance. At this point we don’t even need to talk about China, Russia or the USA – all of them are going thoroughly nuts on collecting and analysing data of their and anyone elses citizens. Europe however is a close competitor for being on the worlds’ ranking of surveillance states, court rulings being the only reason why we can still talk to our friends through (some) instant messengers in private (supposedly).

Let me give you three examples of how your data is commonly, right now, used against you:

  1. Targeted Ads and profiling
    ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎By now it’s common knowledge that we’re constantly being targeted with specific ads, tailored to what we might want to see to maximize the effect. However, many people aren’t aware about the extend, specifically of Googles “AdSense”. Using all resources – Search history, GPS data, Voice Assistant (even if you think it’s off), photos on your phone, visited websites (through Google Analytics, used on almost any website), bought products, time you spend on said websites, shops in the city you seemed to be interested in, people you’re socializing with (either online or those you invite to your home) – they can predict not just what you like to see, but also what you’re about to do to such an extent, you might already bought something not because you genuinely wanted it, but because you saw or heard something in the right moment to make you think you want it. And with targeted ads planed in electric cars, smart ad screens in cities changing their display when you walk by and our habit of using new online media that gets more and more cluttered with ads, it definitely will get way worse before it gets any better. Hell, they even target our very dreams at this point.
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  2. Analysis of your private files and chats
    ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎You might have heard about the rufus when Apple introduced its controversial CSAM feature, supposed to find child pornography in private media. If not, it’s about an AI controlled system systematically scanning any private picture that gets (usually automatically) uploaded into the Apple cloud. If sth. is detected, it also gets automatically send to law enforcement. The problem with this is obvious: an AI, without intrinsic knowledge about the private life of ALL of Apples customers, can not differentiate a child on a beach on your holiday photo from real chipo. Systems like this regularily ignites a storm of outrage, especially in groups of independent security experts and data protection organisations. Even many child protection organisations see this negatively, as seeing the whole population as potential child molesters will do more harm than any good, and proper police work to convict actual criminals would be way more effective. However, as it is now, these things are either already implemented or about to be implemented by politicians all over the world.
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  3. Your life as a product
    ‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Did you know how much worth you are? Not just because you’re awesome, but because of the data you create. That’s why those profiles and data I mentioned in point 1 is called the “modern days oil”. Let it be your exact movement data (Google tracks that by default), your voice patterns picked up by Alexa or how you drive your car, everything is bundled, losely anonymized and sold to data brokers. Those then resell it to well-paying customers, and they make no difference between Russia (really bad if you’re from eastern europe), another company or your friends and family. And how it’s possible to deanonymize given data is shown by security researchers – for example when this priest’s data has shown him using Grindr.

All that said, it’s not impossible to regain your privacy. And to help you making a first step, I want to show you some alternative smartphone manufacturers that actually value your privacy, who offer modern devices without or with very few Google services. And the best thing about it, you’ll still be able to access the Play Store in most cases. Question being: Do you really want most of the junk there?

I’ll also show you some great alternatives to greedy apps like Youtube, which will enable you to still watch your favourite Youtubers¹ without giving Google your whole contact book. And although there may not be alternatives to some of the worst apps – like TikTok – you can, if you wish to do so, just keep using them as you always did.

¹ Since such apps also often circumvent annoying ads or even skip sponsor segments, please consider giving your favorite creators some bucks through their favourite donation platform. 🙂

Regain Privacy – Buying Google-free Smartphones
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