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/e/OS, a real reset from user-identifiable, targeted data collection in smartphones and related platforms.

An opensource google-free Android based OS designed with privacy in mind

Today, data is the new gold and everybody is mining for a plethora  of reasoning and concept. The greed has led big corporations enter every sphere of our digital life in order to retain and exploit as much data as possible.

Every device connected to Internet expose a lot of details to the world. This data also known as metadata including but not limited to identifiers viz. your external IP or public IP, IP addresses of websites and resources visited, bandwidth/data used per session, timestamps, protocol used per connection, Mac address of the network interface of your device or router etc. The real question here is, when your regular ISP happen to collect plenitude of information on you for a service that duly paid for, what do a money making big corporation like Google do to your data? It is an undisputed fact with a very few exceptions that when you aren’t paying for a service, you are the product. The real cost of a product being free is waivers of your rights. The challenge we face with portable internet devices like smartphones is the proficiency required to understand the permissions and underlying controls to make it favor a user’s privacy. It is much more complex than say a general purpose PC owing to limited access to the core OS it grants out of the box. Google has been time and again fined and investigated for asserting these monopolistic dominance on the market.

/e/ offers you a ready to use Android based firmware for an ever growing list of supported Android devices. What makes us different is the business model and our oath to deploy services and design products that focuses on privacy by design. The business model of most smartphone OS providers today is to collect variety of data on you to create a profile with an unique user-resettable ID like Google calls it, that is precisely you to the core that none of us can imagine in reality. This kind of profiling that includes real time data from your browsing habits, application selection, places you visit and what not is then claimed to be randomized with fancy names like advertisement ID. While there an option to ‘opt out of ad personalization’ in the settings if you really look for it. This particular attribute doesn’t expunge your ID and block all the applications from accessing anything personal to serve you ads. What it apparently does is flags your device for no such use without a legitimate enforcement or deterrent policy for defaulters. So, it is totally up to the app developers to act up on it. The onus of being alert is on you, thanks to a corporation that brags about privacy being their paramount policy. Also, there is a gimmicky option to reset your ID to a new one that is alien to the old one. The amount of data that can be collected by a given application could be used to co-relate your profile with ease, if they so desire. Google basically flags your ID with these new privacy options when enabled and leaves you in open at the mercy of application developers to be honest with your data valued as gold today. When you use a Google’s version of Android OS with their services enabled, it is their prerogative to poke into your personal matters.

While enjoying these services for gratis, we forget the golden rules to ask ourselves fundamental questions. The cost they bear to keep it going has to be earned to keep a specific unit or product going.

At ‘/e/’, we collectively and responsibly say no to tracking at together and crave to improve it every day. Our Android based firmware is a replacement for your current Android OS without user-subjugating Google services. It aims to completely replace whole ecosystem that we are so fond of including Maps, Mail, Cloud drive, Application store, Docs etc. All the services or application that are offered by a vanilla installation of /e/ firmware is designed for privacy and user control. Your data is your data. You get a free account by ‘/e/’ for accessing officially hosted email service, cloud storage, contacts sync and other services without being data mined and completely free from clutches of Google. You would be shocked to learn how all of the applications can still be used without you being signed in or even without bearing an account by ‘/e/’. Unique ID or profile of your actions and usage on your smartphone is really out of the question when you are at liberty to bring your own device and pick your own services. We condemn any such IDs to the core.

Albeit, a basic 5 gigabyte account is offered for gratis, it is not what we wish to actively promote. Google and others did it enough and many users now find it completely weird to pay for such services, definitely not something we would like to condone in near future. A lot of people and organizations throw resources here and there but it is not like there is an infinite tap of hardware, energy or system administrators. It might be fitting for a giant like Google with magnitude of ways to make money from your data, but I do not think it is for ‘small’ structures especially for ‘/e/’ where your data privacy is truly paramount.

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Manish Gehlot

I am a privacy, security, encryption and software freedom enthusiast. I am into VPNs, TLS security. Recently I also got into technical writings including guides.

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