Is your smartphone knocking on you? An iOS / Android alternative for privacy


Over the past few years, the world has been shaken by scandals related to the collection of personal information by social networks, manufacturers of operating systems – a person has become exactly the same product as a phone, a car or something else. But if the usual products are understandable to us and they are tangible, then it is much more difficult to imagine how information about our behavior, what we do and how we behave in everyday life is being sold. The rejection of the very fact that one of our everyday habits creates a product is unambiguous. And I have two news, one good and one bad, I’ll start with the last one. Alas, completely abandoning the fact that you are being followed and used to target ads, social services and much more will not work. If you do not consider the possibility of going to live in the forest, giving up Internet access, communications, then nothing will come of it. Even drastically ditching a computer or telephone won’t save you. Cameras, generously scattered on city streets, in shopping centers and transport, will remember your face and count it. All that remains is to bind your transport card to restore all your movements. Further – more, you can see how you pay for purchases, restore your appearance as a portrait of the buyer. You are counted again, you are part of the system again. The described scenario is more than real, and it does not require human intervention, the analysis programs will calculate you, giving out your social profile and habits. Of course, in anonymous form, since nowhere in the world is interference with a person’s personal life approved. You will be recorded in the system as profile X0236789YZ, no names are needed here. All anonymity and privacy is built on the fact that no one will try to link such a profile to a real person. The whole structure hangs on a thin thread of the assumption that no one will do this.

Looking at detectives in childhood, I noticed a technique that scriptwriters often used: you need to hide something in plain sight. While the walls are tapped in search of things, the floorboards are being opened, she lies quietly on the table in the middle of the room, but no one pays attention to her. American companies have done something similar with our personal data and privacy, they collect it in such a volume that if someone realized what our phone was talking about, he would grab his head. Therefore, they do not hide this from us, any owner of an Android smartphone can do a simple operation – go into his profile and see what data is saved in it.

What did you do on June 11, 2018? This question baffles me, since nothing in the memory of this date pops up. You can just as well ask me about 2012, 2013 and all subsequent years. Previously, you could strain your gyrus, try to leaf through your notebooks, now you don’t need to do this, your smartphone has all the information. What time did you get up, where did you go, where you stopped. All of this is shown on your profile. What is not shown there is information about what applications you launched, what you looked for in the search, with whom you talked or corresponded. But all this information is stored in your profile.

Is your smartphone knocking on you? An iOS / Android alternative for privacyIs your smartphone knocking on you? An iOS / Android alternative for privacyIs your smartphone knocking on you? An iOS / Android alternative for privacy

IOS collects exactly the same amount of data, but they try not to scare their users, you cannot see this data. Social networks like Facebook don’t have access to smartphones at this level, so they try to reach you in every possible way. As a result, the Facebook app monitors you constantly and collects even more data! There is no way to delete them, since they are not associated with you, this is the data of a “device” that has no name, but only a unique number.

Note that spying on its users has somehow become the norm for American corporations. The US Congress even periodically holds hearings on this topic, where they threaten to change this approach, but only for the residents of the country. And it seems that we have already reliably fallen under the cap of digital surveillance, it will not be possible to escape somewhere into the forest, as well as to confuse the tracks.

Now that you’ve gotten into the sweep of surveillance, it’s time for some good news. The world does not tolerate the lack of alternatives, and, having unleashed a trade war against China and, in particular, Huawei, the United States unwittingly created an alternative for Android with GMS services. Let me remind you that one of the key products for Google is contextual advertising, when the maximum amount of data is collected about the user in order to show him the ads that are considered relevant. And if initially the search only took into account your behavior in the browser, now it scans your emails in Gmail, what you do in applications. Another opportunity to raise the relevance of advertising was eavesdropping on users of smart speakers or smartphones with the same “Ok Google”. And until the moment when you yourself do not encounter this, everything can be attributed to the power of suggestion.

Once my friends and I were discussing a vacation on the ocean, we were talking about yachts and what models our compatriots prefer to buy. No smartphone searches, no inquiries about it, light chatter at the table. An hour later, opening a page in Chrome, I saw contextual advertising in which I was offered to buy a yacht. For a month I was bombarded with offers of yachts, exclusive vacations, until it all faded away by itself. As for me, there is a very fine line that Google crossed and invaded my personal life.

Do you know about the belief of many people that the ads that the context of Google shows you accurately describes your addictions and everything that you search on the web? About seven years ago, a Trojan for Android appeared that lured away personal data of people, advertised it in the description by the fact that the application shows “screaming Japanese schoolgirls”. Years passed, and this phrase engraved in my memory. That year they showed me in contextual advertising something that I don’t even want to remember. People who periodically took my devices saw this context, looked at me at least in surprise. This is also the influence of the modern world and how we begin to live in it.

We are part of the wider world, it is impossible to abandon modern communications, but it is also impossible to turn a blind eye to how these devices collect data about us. Huawei, creating HMS, rethought the issue of privacy, privacy of user data. Someone says that the system is simply too young, so it did not add all the features that Android from Google has, and they will appear later. While nothing makes us think so, Huawei’s approach, which is postulated everywhere, is very different from the American one and sounds unusual. As if companies and countries have switched places, the Chinese manufacturer has become a defender of personal freedoms.

A person is not a product, and advertising is a necessary part for companies to make a profit and can invest this money in development. If it is impossible to refuse advertising, then what should you do? Huawei’s approach is very simple: we will not opt ​​out of advertising, but we will give the user the option to turn off the collection of data about their behavior.

But before we dwell on this issue, I immediately want to emphasize one more difference between Android with GMS and HMS, since it is important in this context. Huawei initially collects much less data about its users. The irony of the situation is that America accuses Huawei of constantly spying on users, but never provides any evidence. Considering that America is a technology leader, if there was the slightest proof of such surveillance, and we would have seen it, it would be told about it from any iron. But this did not happen.

Huawei has created a special profile for advertising (OAID – open advertising identifier) ​​for its smartphones and devices on HMS, it is not permanent, and the user can turn it off in the settings, then no information about it will be collected. You can do this by going to “Settings” – “Privacy” – “Advertising and privacy”.

By resetting your personal ID, you will erase all the data that was on your device. Another important aspect that favorably distinguishes Huawei’s approach from Google and other companies is that data for advertising is collected on a specific device, and not on all devices used by a specific person. It turns out that Huawei has tried to reach a compromise between advertising and the privacy of each user. And this is a person’s choice of what he wants to get in his device – contextual advertising or privacy.

Many utilities for tracking user behavior are built on APIs that Google provides for developers, historically. In Huawei, creating their HMS system from scratch, they abandoned them, there is no need for everyone to follow the users. Therefore, the applications that are created for AppGallery have limited tracking capabilities, they have been severely infringed on their rights, and this can only be welcomed. It also clearly shows an attempt to reach a compromise that will suit everyone.

There are no devices on the market that do not monitor their users in any way, even push-button phones can do this, albeit in a rather limited manner. But if we are talking about smartphones, then there is a curious situation, there are models on Android with Google services, there is an iPhone, and they all follow their users as much as possible. But Huawei does not do this today. Someone believes that this is temporary and then everything will become like everyone else’s. Someone thinks that this is a deliberate approach, I, for example, think that this is so. The fact is that Huawei / Honor smartphones give the user that very freedom, when your every step is not recorded somewhere in America, is not sent to eternal storage.

Oddly enough, there are not many people who are worried about the security of personal data. Usually the reasoning goes like this: my life is boring, and nothing special happens in it, who cares? Few people think that modern advertising systems are tuned to increase advertisers’ profits. This means that you are likely to pay more for the thing you like than you could, since the system knows you and is sure that you will do it. Being anonymous to such systems is often for the good, you are offered different prices.

I usually have two smartphones with me, I went to the airline’s website in search of tickets, and fixed the cost. At lunch, I repeated the search from the second device from Huawei, I was surprised that I was offered a noticeably lower cost. I repeated the experiment and made sure that everything works like this. There are all the prerequisites to become an anonymous author, it gives savings. I am sure that there may be something similar in other things. But the important thing here is still something else, that we have an alternative, to become a digital product or to restrict the use of data about ourselves.

The initiative from Huawei turned out to be so noticeable that in the summer of 2020, Google decided to also allow users to limit their advertising profiles, remove them from the system. But at the same time, the collection of other data does not affect this in any way, it will go exactly the same as before. I fully approve of the fact that Huawei’s initiatives are being taken up by the creator of Android, there is a hope that someday common sense will prevail and a person will cease to be a product. Do you think such a bright future will come?

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