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As time goes by, computer software begins to feel more and more hostile to the user. When I installed Windows 10, all the privacy settings made me feel like I was wrangling a beast rather than setting up something that would help me.

I don't know if there's any solution or if privacy is just a remnant of the past. Is Linux any better? And is there any way to own a smartphone which is built not to leak my information, either through the operating system or through 3rd party apps that request access to everything on the phone?




    I don't know if there's any solution or if privacy is
    just a remnant of the past.
This always irritates me when I see it (not specific to you). It's not a remnant of the past and there is of course a solution! The solution is trading some of the conveniences you think you need. The solution is for once trying something other than what you're used to.

The reason why you (and everyone else who thinks this way) feel there's no solution is because in your world, giving up a smart-phone or even using a non-Windows/Google/Apple device is a non-starter.

There are new phones coming out like Ubuntu's and Mozilla's that, while not perfect, absolutely are better alternatives. If you keep digging there are projects like Neo900 that respect privacy in totality. You could use a feature phone, or an old n900, or any bevy of alternatives but the price they come with is convenience :)


> There are new phones coming out like Ubuntu's and Mozilla's that, while not perfect, absolutely are better alternatives.

The last time I checked, Mozilla's Firefox OS phones appeared to be sending all home screen search queries to some unknown company in Israel, with no clear way to disable it.


Where did you hear that? I'm unaware and couldn't find anything about it.



I mean, you linked a press release from 2012 for a partnership with Everything.me, and an Indian Mozilla video from 2014 about adaptive search which doesn't mention anything about that. I'm not saying FF is innocent in data-sharing, but at this point you're spreading FUD around. To make a claim like that, you need something way more definitive!


The misfeature demonstrated (adaptive app search) is implemented by sending the query to the company mentioned. It's not a secret. See this article for example: http://www.cnet.com/news/mozilla-revamping-firefox-oss-app-l...

Edit: You're right that it's not mentioned in the video. That's part of the problem; it's obviously something people care about and would like to be informed of.

Here is one bug report discussing it - and a "fix" involving stopping the queries in some very specific cases: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1082787

Or how about this direct quote[1] from Mozilla's CTO (where in "e.me" refers to Everything.Me in context):

"So we send an XHR request for each letter to Google on Desktop (search box), and XHR requests to e.me on Firefox OS."

[1] https://lists.mozilla.org/pipermail/dev-platform/2014-Octobe...


Shout out for the N900. I've said for years I'd pay handily for an updated model. Your comment reminded me to check back on the Neo900 project, and it's still chugging along. Looks like they've started accepting pre-orders on the site.


Yea, it's moving slower than I want but they're accepting pre-orders (half-payments) and I think they will have a few working prototypes at CCC this month.

It's frustrating because there's no definitive end-date but they are much much further along than most thought.


Too bad Microsoft bought it, and shut it down though :/


[citation needed]


I currently own a N9 mobile phone, witch is the successor of N900. I had a windows phone before that. And the N9 is superior to Windows phone in all aspects.

When Microsoft bought the company (Nokia) they shut down all support for the phone, including SDK, app store, music store, maps, roads and software updates.


So, just to clarify, your first 'it' meant Nokia, and the second 'it' was the N9 phone.

That's not what I was referring to, though. You and Nokia may have seen the N9 as the successor to the N900, but I certainly didn't, and I suspect the Neo900 team didn't, either.


> You could use a feature phone, or an old n900

I'm pretty sure Microsoft killed that one too.

Microsoft's strategy is to literally kill the competitors. They won't afford buying Google or Apple though :P


They're non-starters because the alternatives do not fit the users needs - it's pretty simple actually.

It's not as simple as just throwing out Windows and Office and switching to Mint and Libreoffice.


> Is Linux any better?

The Iceweasel bug that downloaded some icons silently on the first run was a big deal few days ago. The problem was that iceweasel doesn't ship the search icons with the package (legal reasons maybe), so it downloads them on the first run [1].

[1] https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel/2015/07/msg00226.html

And this is considered a bug that will be fixed. Compare this to the privacy issues on any proprietary OS where they are considered to be features not bugs. Maybe there are other bugs that leak your privacy even more, at least they are recognized as bugs when discovered.


I can't read your link unfortunately (get an SSL error when trying to connect), but that's interesting, given the sheer amount of trackable requests firefox makes silently in the background (like safe search/content blacklists from google, etc). Based on the goals stated by the iceweasel project, I assume they have not patched those things (as their goal is to be firefox-without-trademarks and nothing more).

I'm really disappointed in mozilla's track record on privacy. They always seem to choose features over privacy. See for example all of the patches sent by the Tor Browser developers for various info leaks that have been rejected as they would be inconvenient for average users.

It really seems quite pointless to work on a leak like this when there's so many others in the upstream that they refuse to patch (even if they have understandable reasons).


> See for example all of the patches sent by the Tor Browser developers for various info leaks that have been rejected as they would be inconvenient for average users.

I wasn't aware of this, what kinds of leaks are you talking about? Care to supply us with some references?


I don't have a list handy, no, I've just read the discussions on the bugtrackers at the time.

A good place to start investigating if you're really interested: https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/ticket/2871

That's a list of the original planned features for the TBB. You can clearly see they intended it to be a temporary thing until patches were pushed upstream, but it's still around and still adding new patches to fix leaks. You might try to search for the tickets for the issues above in the mozilla bugtracker and you will see many WONTFIXes.


For a desktop OS, try OpenBSD, Slackware Linux, Debian, or Arch Linux, or if those are too obtuse (they can be difficult for the uninitiated to get into) try Ubuntu or Linux Mint. If you go with Ubuntu you'll want to go to the Security & Privacy tab and disable online search results and tracking.

For a smartphone, you have to dig back into the past and find a Nokia N900 or an old-school BlackBerry; anything based on Android, iOS, or Windows Phone is going to snoop on you even if you tell it not to. Even FirefoxOS has glaring security issues, and Ubuntu Touch isn't ready for prime time.


> For a desktop OS, try OpenBSD, Slackware Linux, Debian, or Arch Linux,

> or if those are too obtuse (they can be difficult for the uninitiated to get into) try Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

For the uninitiated I'd cut to the chase and go straight to Linux Mint, there's just less to contend with.

Some time after initiation, depending on interests and needs, maybe work your way back up the stream to Ubuntu or Debian, or portage over to OpenBSD.


You're probably right, I was thinking back to my first real Linux learning curve with Slackware around 2000-2001. I dived in head-first and I'm glad I did, what I learned doing that built a foundation that has served me well.


Yeah, and you did that because you had to back then. :)

Thinking more about my post, I left out the option of just staying with Linux Mint after a noob gains experience.

Not that I'm anything like a role model, but it's my default personal distro, because it doesn't try to be the main focus of my computer experience, it just gets out of the way lets me focus on the work.


Mint is a great OS, I used it off and on for several years. I enjoy getting my hands dirty and I like fine-grained control over my OS though, so I've always gravitated back to Slackware long-term. Not to drag out the dreaded car-computer analogy, but it's why I keep my old 1982 farm truck instead of buying a more modern work truck; it's simple, I know it inside and out, and it runs just the way I want it to.

But you can't go wrong with Mint as a "get out of my way" OS, as you said.


What about an Android phone running a AOSP variant without Google Services?


It takes a lot more than cutting Google out of the OS to truly make it secure and private:

https://blog.torproject.org/blog/mission-impossible-hardenin...


Any company that installs adware on an operating system you paid for [1], and even forcibly reinstalls it after you remove it and block it, clearly doesn't give a shit about user experience or your privacy. Some Linux distros will also remind you to update, but they aren't paid updates and anyway you can turn those updates off if you like, and they won't come back.

[1] https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3035583


Unless I'm missing something, this isn't a paid update either. And you can turn it off in a few fairly trivial ways[1] (though I'll admit this might be past some users, anyone who has even heard the word 'distro' probably shouldn't have an issue with it)

[1] http://superuser.com/questions/922068/how-to-disable-the-get...


Uninstalling and hiding that update only works until MS releases a new version of it, at which point Windows will unhide it and reinstall. It's not a solution.


The Blackphone is built for privacy and Linux is pretty at not leaking private info, although you have to configure Ubuntu a bit I hear.


I looked into blackphone a while ago. If I remember correctly the first thing it asks for is your e-mail address so it can sign you up to their proprietary anonymity/cloud service. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but if it is I think they've completely misunderstood their target audience. Thanks for reminding me though I will have another look into it.


I think control of data is the addiction feeding this trend. Perhaps the belief that those who control the data, can predict and control the future?




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