Sunday, September 25, 2022

Privacy phone, part 7: Apps

I've been testing some different setups for privacy phones, and have found an issue that's common to them all. The problem is apps.

Now, the whole reason for a privacy phone is to keep information about activity from being sent to Google, Facebook, or other places that collect and sell your data. The easiest way for them to do this is via apps.

If you notice, I didn't say anything about Apple just now. That's not because I'm not concerned about Apple having that data. Apple is actually the least offensive of those that gather your data, but I still don't like the idea of them gathering it. And I don't want iPhone developers getting the data either.

Many apps will collect the data or simply not run. That can be a problem. But the workaround is actually quite simple. Use the Web browser on the phone to access the Website. For example, rather than opening the Facebook app, I'll go to the Facebook Website on my privacy phone. It works pretty much the same. Pretty much. There are some differences. Not enough to make it unworkable, but some differences nonetheless.

However, not all services have Websites that work well with mobile apps. That usually is because the Website is not properly configured to display in a smaller window, such as on a mobile device. Sometimes, it's because of poorly coded Websites.

For instance, if you have a Website where you log in, and if they offer the ability to remember who you are, that's because of it sets a cookie on your phone. However, cookies are not forever. And sometimes, you can tell it to not set certain cookies that are used to track you. The "remember me" cookies don't really track you to the degree of other cookies.

Sometimes, when you go to a Website that wasn't properly coded, it can do some weird things. Like if you don't have certain cookies set, it redirects to a login page. But if the login page sees a certain cookie set, it assumes you are logged in, and redirects to a different page. But that page doesn't see this other cookie that isn't set, so it directs you to the login page. And so on and so on.

This doesn't happen on most Websites, of course, because they use better logic or handling of redirects that prevents an infinite loop from happening. But those that do? Oh boy, are they ever aggravating.

The solution is to remove all cookies from that Website for your mobile phone, but that is easier to do on a computer than on a mobile device. Unless you simply want to remove all cookies from everything. And you don't always want that.

So this transition to a privacy phone is going to have some hiccups, some major and some minor, along the way.

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