Two Free Privacy-Focused Mobile Operating Systems

by Tracy Knauer •

Making Android-based mobile devices more private and secure can be a challenge. Here’s a look at two custom-built versions of Android that aim to provide comprehensive out-of-the-box privacy and security, with little work on the part of the user.

Privacy gaps on Android exist at several levels. There’s the operating system itself, which could have bugs that allow third parties to steal your data. There are the apps that come pre-bundled with Android devices, which could leak private data or actively try to collect information about you. There are the communication protocols that Android uses, which are not always encrypted or designed with privacy in mind.

We’ve already covered steps you can take to make an Android-based phone or tablet more secure and private. Most of those changes involve installing custom apps and bolstering the security settings of the mobile operating system.

But if you just want a “turn-key” way to make your Android device more private, you could use a version of Android that is designed specifically to increase security and privacy. Such a system comes with privacy features built-in, rather than requiring you to install them manually.

There are two privacy-oriented versions of Android worth considering:

  • Replicant. The main goal of this OS is to replace many of the proprietary parts of the operating system with free/open source code. That eliminates concerns that closed-source parts of the software running on your mobile device could be used to spy on you without your knowledge. The chief limitation of Replicant is that it only supports certain types of devices. Otherwise, it’s free and easy to use on the hardware it supports.
  • Silent OS. This is a commercial implementation of Android that promises to protect privacy above all else. It’s designed more for companies that want to protect their data than for individual users. Still, it’s useful because it includes several built-in apps for secure communications. It also provides special features that help you isolate different apps and their associated data from one another. That makes it harder for apps to collect data about you or for hackers to exploit security vulnerabilities in an app’s code. You have to pay to use Silent OS.

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