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  1. #1
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    Using Android and Google tablets

    For some time now, it has been a moot point, because in my opinion, the Android OS hasn't been fully enough developed, the hardware has been too underpowered, and the tablets have been too expensive.

    Now the OS is capable, the hardware is powerful enough, and the price is low enough, to consider buying an Android tablet.

    But, I don't trust Google. No one who is online can really escape Google's notice, but I never use the Google search engine, or any of the other things that Google tries to get you to allow to track you.

    If I get an Android tablet, obviously, I would not download apps from the Google app store, but would the Google browser report home on my location and browsing habits? Would using the Google browser give Google all the personal information that they want, and that I don't want them to have?

    Is there another browser that I could install on an Android tablet?

    I would like to install a GPS app on an Android tablet. Is there anyway to get one from somewhere else besides the Google store, that doesn't track and report my whereabouts?

  2. #2
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    I use a Google tablet and turn off the location bits, including websites via Chrome. I also run Adblock to remove the general crud that blights my browsing. I'm sure Google still collect my browsing data, but who doesn't these days.

    GPS is built-in to the tablet and apps can access it, but you can limit access to some degree - tell website to ask for access, which I rarely grant.

    cheers, Paul

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prescott View Post
    But, I don't trust Google. [...] If I get an Android tablet, obviously, I would not download apps from the Google app store, [...] I would like to install a GPS app on an Android tablet. Is there anyway to get one from somewhere else besides the Google store [...]
    I can't tell from these snippets if you're under the impression you should be avoiding the Google Play store.

    Most apps in the Play store are from third-party developers, and getting a third-party app from the Play store isn't going to be any worse than "sideloading" that same app from outside the Play store. Just because an app is distributed through the Play store doesn't mean Google is embedding snooping add-ons in the app or that Google even has access to whatever data that app may be collecting from you.

    About the only extra information Google gets from an app distributed via the Play store is Google knows you downloaded that app. If you download it from elsewhere and sideload it then Google doesn't know that, but if you download it via Play then Google knows you have it. But they don't automatically get whatever information the app collects--unless, of course, the app by design shares what it collects with another Google app (such as Maps, gmail, contacts, et al).

    That said, note that many apps, whether acquired via Play or sideloaded, require you to turn on underlying OS features that *could* share information with Google. For example, a third-party GPS app, even if you get it from outside the Play store, is going to need you to enable GPS services in the android operating system, and then Google would have access to the GPS data--not from the GPS app itself, but from the android system.

    All of this doesn't necessarily answer your question, but I'm just pointing out that the Play store is not the issue here.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by dg1261 View Post
    I can't tell from these snippets if you're under the impression you should be avoiding the Google Play store.
    If you create a Google account, you have given them 90% of the information that they need to track you. If you download an app from the Google Play store, they can connect the device to the account. They can probably do that anyway, but I don't want to give them anything.

  5. #5
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    Google makes the OS and anything Android you buy will have Google Chrome, Google mail, search, etc. ( other than an Amazon Fire which will have silk browser ).
    All the other "crapware/bloatware" on an Android device comes from either the manufacturer and/or the phone company you have it registered with. Some of the useless apps you can turn off in settings>applications.
    As for search history and many other privacy features, I went into my google account and turned them all off.
    As Paul T said, you can turn off location, and you can also turn off any GPS function. That's all done in settings. If a downloaded app say's it need's your location plus a ton of other crap, don't install it.
    I have a weather app that when I activate it, it says it need's my location with an ok or cancel button. I click the cancel button and manually put in the city I want a weather report from and save it.
    HTH

  6. #6
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    Post Pros, Cons, Tips regarding getting started with Android

    You can get other browsers from Google Play (GP), such as Firefox, Dolphin, Boat, etc. You can also get most of the "mainstream" apps like those from the Amazon Android app store, in which case Google does not have a "record" of it, although Amazon will since you must sign into that with an Amazon account.

    What you can do in either/both cases is set up a minimal account just for that purpose if you want to use other services from Google/Amazon without tying them to your Android device. I did that with Google to be able to post my reviews of GP apps since that requires the Google Id that is used to download the app.

    With the newer versions of Android you want to be cautious about applying updates as soon as they come out, by turning off the automatic update setting for each - let some pioneers be the first "public beta testers", and watch for reviews from them to help you decide if you want to go with the update. Also, get an Android backup app, and save your current app version before applying the update, as a fallback - I have done that for most of the apps I care about, and it has been especially helpful with Google maps since I do not care for a lot of the changes since version 6.14, or so. ES File Explorer does such backups, along with many other essential/useful file management tasks.

    There are a lot of disturbing reports about how poorly Google vets many apps on GP, and issues with the quality of apps in which amateur programmers just copy many bits of basic code into their concoctions, and thus perpetuate poor coding, if not outright malware, or accidental security exposures.

    I am definitely uncomfortable with this situation and my dependence on Android for a phone that "does it all'. Seeing weather apps requiring access permissions for such features of your phone as its camera, microphone, and even the phone number of an in-progress call (maybe another app, but still...) is disturbing - how can you be sure when that app will start "recording", and where it could send it (almost all routinely "require" network access permission, also, although that is understandable for anything looking up info on the web such as a weather app)?

    There is an interesting option that involves using CyanogenMod's "spin" of Android to create a "Google-free" device, if it can be unlocked/rooted. Google for that topic if you are interested ;-}

    I have started experimenting with a Windows Phone (WP) OS phone, and, although I am impressed by some of WP's features, UI, performance, and the Nokia hardware, I find that its app installation process has similarly disturbing installation permissions requirements all too often. It seems a smartphone of any type is going to be a rather invasive device if you try to use all of the "cool apps" and features available.

    HTH
    Last edited by rokky; 2014-12-07 at 23:08.

  7. #7
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    rokky,

    I am not replying with quote, because you wrote quite a long post. Thanks.

    I am most concerned about Google, not because I doubt that the other are trying to do the same things, but because Google seems to be an order of magnitude better at it.

    I think you are right about CyanogenMod. If I got a Google tablet, I would get one that CyanogenMod could be installed on. And I would want to get a non-Google browser from someone besides Google Play. I would also want a GPS/Map app with maps downloaded to the tablet, but not from the Google Play store.

    The problem with setting up a one-time Google account to download things from the Google store, is that unless you used something like a library computer, they might be able to identify you anyway. They like to tie everything to everything.

  8. #8
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    As for a Browser, how about Firefox, Maxthon or Opera for Android?

    I was looking at a favored site a bit ago for a download and discovered I had been overlooking the Android section on www.majorgeeks.com. There's a few things listed there I will be getting for my 'inexpensive' Android tablet such as an antivirus, several popular apps there.

  9. #9
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    Android without Google?

    Quote Originally Posted by Prescott View Post
    rokky,

    I am not replying with quote, because you wrote quite a long post. Thanks.

    I am most concerned about Google, not because I doubt that the other are trying to do the same things, but because Google seems to be an order of magnitude better at it.

    I think you are right about CyanogenMod. If I got a Google tablet, I would get one that CyanogenMod could be installed on. And I would want to get a non-Google browser from someone besides Google Play. I would also want a GPS/Map app with maps downloaded to the tablet, but not from the Google Play store.

    The problem with setting up a one-time Google account to download things from the Google store, is that unless you used something like a library computer, they might be able to identify you anyway. They like to tie everything to everything.
    Sorry for the delay in replying. I wanted to think about this a bit when I had some time since it does address issues that have concerned me about being a Googler. I have decided life is too short for me (literally - retiring next year) to expend more effort than to simply lighten up on my dependence on Google, and to "diversify" my means of access to the Web, and do the little bits such as turning off all Google tracking/history that I can. Also, staying off FaceBook should help (I let my wife keep up with the scattered family that way, and relay any such info of interest ;-} ).

    I don't quite see what you expect to accomplish in not having Google "identify you" just downloading apps (if possible - a lot of sites use their adwords, and other metrics services regardless of how you get to them) - if they don't, someone else on the web can. Using the apps is more the issue I would think, and you can turn off a lot of their tracking and history for your account if that helps.

    There are a number of problems in going Android without any Google "taint" that Ars Technica identified in this article, "The great Ars experiment—free and open source software on a smartphone?!" ( http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/...open-source/1/ ). Study it, and see if that is really where you want to go. They seem to recommend only a few apps from the F-Droid (totally FOSS) store as really comparable - i.e. Firefox, VLC, and Open StreetMaps, as I understand the article. The rest are crude and/or non-existent such as lack of any word processors.

    I suspect to really make a good attempt at avoiding Google, you might want to consider using an older SmartPhone like a Windows Mobile 6.x unit, or a higher end Nokia Symbian model (or even their pure Linux N900), and tether a Linux Tablet/Notebook to it running TAILS on Tor. But that just flags you to NSA as a "person of interest" most likely.

    One other caveat about avoiding Google Play store apps - other sources of Android apps (aside from F-Droid and Amazon) are too apt to be loaded with way more malware than the stuff that slips into the Google Play store, and you can wind up with something/someone far worse than Google/NSA looking over your digital shoulder to steal sensitive info.

    Good luck with your efforts, and do let us know if you do find something workable.

    FWIW

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