My Android phone no longer has a Google account

This week, I was finally able to fulfil a longstanding goal: to delete my Google account from my Android phone. This is a step in a series of progressions towards “completely” disappearing from Google’s radar. I have been comfortable with the state of my laptop, which avoids all Google spyware using ghostery to block Google analytics, disabling cookies on all Google domains, and using Startpage.com for search. I’ve dropped Google Talk in favour of a jabber server hosted by a friend. While I still actively monitor my Gmail account via IMAP, it is not my primary address and is largely only used for correspondence that is already public, such as mailing lists and Google Groups.

The three things that I have still been using Google for were:

  • Maps
  • Paid Apps From Google Play
  • Contact Backup

I still use Google maps on occasion, though my main navigation equipment is an offline Garmin GPS device that — to the best of my knowledge — is not notifying anyone of my location at any time. I largely addressed the other two issues this past week.

I recently received my Cubieboard in the mail. It’s basically a specced up Raspberry PI. I installed Arch Linux by following the instructions at this thread.

I then set up Own Cloud by following the instructions at the Arch wiki. Once it was set up, I realized that I personally don’t have much use for calendar sync or file sharing, but that the contact backup was crucial. I didn’t want a full LAMP stack running on my little ARM processor, so I uninstalled Own Cloud and set up Radicale instead. Now my phone’s contacts are backed up and I no longer need my Google account to support that feature.

Then I was notified that AOKP, my current Android ROM of choice, had released an update. I thought “Hm, I wonder if I can get away with not installing the Google Apps package at all.”

I couldn’t. But I tried. The main issue is that there are two paid apps in my Google Play account (SwiftKey and SwipePad MoreSpace) that I do not want to live without, and do not want to purchase again from another vendor. In the case of SwipePad, I couldn’t even find another vendor. I toyed with backing up and restoring the .apk’s, but I got certificate and signing errors. I’ve read that these can be circumnavigated with Titanium Backup, but I haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.

So I installed Google apps and reluctantly activated my Google Account to install these two paid apps. Then I disabled my Google Account.

I then installed Aptoide to replace Google Play. It had recent versions of all the free apps I use on a regular basis. It looks like it will be able to supply my app needs into the future.

I have logged into my Gmail account and deleted my pre-existing contact list. This means that even if I do have to enable Google Play in the future, I will no longer be spammed with “Your friends like this app” messages. It also means Google will not be able to track my future relationships unless they are with people who use Google services.

Now if only Ghostery and Firefox would get Ghostery working on Android, I’d actually feel safe using my device!

7 Comments

  1. Cyphex says:

    Hi Dusty,

    thank you for this interesting post! I recently started looking into the same problem and already found out about OwnCloud (although Radicale might also be the better solution for me – didn’t know about it until your post, so thanks again). My current problem is to find (preferably free) apps for syncing, so I’d be interested in your choice there. The only free one I found so far is “CardDAV-Sync free beta”.
    In addition, I’d like to also sync my calendar, but could not find any free solutions for that yet. If you have come across anything in this field, a pointer into the right direction would be highly appreciated.

    Btw, I also enjoyed your other posts (especially the DVCS ones). Please keep up the great work!

    • Dusty Phillips says:

      Cyphex, I did mean to include that information in my post, so here it is: I am using CardDAV-Sync and it seems to work flawlessly with both OwnCloud and Radicale.

      The same author also has a CalDAV-sync connector. I haven’t tried it, but others have mentioned that it works. There is also an Android app called aCal that has internal caldav sync. I believe both of them have been said to work with both Radicale and OwnCloud.

      For Thunderbird, there is a contacts connector called SOGo that works well with OwnCloud, but does not currently work with Radicale. I believe there are several calDav connectors for Thunderbird Lightning, but I did not research them.

  2. Nameless says:

    Whatever we do, we can never fully escape from google’s radar. As most of the people we correspond with have a gmail account, and that means even our most secret information is residing on google’s servers …

  3. Rubén says:

    Instead Ghostery, try adblock plus with Fanboys Ultimate List, wich include Privacylist https://secure.fanboy.co.nz/r/fanboy-ultimate.txt

  4. Justin Yang says:

    Well, are apps from Aptoide safe? I’m afraid of that. Currently, I use F-droid to install open source apps I need.

  5. Google Inc. is the only big vendor out there whom I barely trust. I kind of manage healthy balance of their services used – these days mostly just GMail (using modern interface with JavaScript if I have to keep in touch with folks throughout integrated XMPP widget – no I am not by any means a fan of proprietary plugin needed for video conversations; as well as I always deny invitations for Plus social network participation) with GDrive linked together (only minimal amount of school related docs) and their Blogger aquisition (which I link to my own domain, though without any social 3rd party sharing buttons and stuff; as well as I host vast imagery at decentralized GNU MediaGoblin instance). Of course it would be much fairer to use a resource effective LAMP stack e.g. on Cubie board mentioned by you.

    Inner voice of mine questions these procedures from time to time, but the brain’s logical reply is as following – see there ain’t much companies supporting FLOSS movement this much. Yes, ads and data is huge business, but who else is doing such a lot community service and public investment?

    1.| https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/new-statistics-about-national-security-letters-google-transparency-report
    2.| https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/hey-google-can-we-have-data-about-fisa-court-orders
    3.| http://www.haiku-os.org/news/2013-01-27_google_donates_5000_usd_thank_you_not_enough
    4.| http://www.haiku-os.org/node/5087
    5.| http://www.haiku-os.org/community/gsoc/2013
    6.| http://review.coreboot.org/gitweb?p=coreboot.git;a=commitdiff;h=d6682e88afc31f0d05f74638c28f6cc60fa2ba69
    7.| http://review.coreboot.org/gitweb?p=coreboot.git;a=commitdiff;h=49428d840323210433c96740545246296d65b3f2
    8.| http://blog.webmproject.org/2013/03/vp8-and-mpeg-la.html
    9.| https://developers.google.com/speed/webp/
    10. https://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/
    11. http://golang.org/
    12. http://www.dartlang.org/
    13. http://lkml.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/1302.2/02945.html

    All I want to express is, that I completely understand you being paranoid, as I know this feeling myself. But let’s face it, sooner or later Google will overcome Canonical in positive commitment and giving back.

    PS: What if Richard Matthew Stallman used instead of MIPS-based Yeelong with PMON BIOS & obsolete gNewSense rather X86-based Pixel with Coreboot & Parabola (liberated ArchLinux)? It’s truly hypothetical, but what IF. So man keep up hoping for brighter mornings & consider my recommendation of DuckDuckGo search engine as a drop-in replacement of Google Search. (=

    PPS: IMAP & Jabber are far from dead & if only they abandoned necessary pluggable code in favor of WebRTC implementation, that would be a headshot for Skype ← Microsoft ↓ Nokia → Facebook surveillance combo. One would wonder.. if people wake up even IRC might regain momentum! d-_-b \m/

  6. One more thing, as for Android/Linux; well you have two options either use Replicant / Cyanogenmod (as in more freed custom ROMs walking on the edge of device warranty) while using safe F-Droid market (http://f-droid.org/) or use just dumb phone (still a tracking device) until FirefoxOS (Boot2Gecko) proves itself a more privacy aware solution.