I’d like to share some thoughts on the topic of “privacy vs. security” within /e/OS and clarify a few points.
As you know, the promise of /e/OS has been to build a product that lets its users escape as much as possible the permanent data collection from the big techs, starting with Google, but not only.
We are cleaning Android of all features that send data to Google, replacing them with equivalent open source apps or custom developments. We have microG instead of the Google Play Services to ensure apps can benefit from all basic features such as push notifications, location… with a minimal exposure to Google. We have developed an app store that offers any existing Android app again with minimal exposure to Google and informs users about some basic information related to application trackers. Since last year, we have gone one step further with the introduction of Advanced Privacy that lets users log and block application trackers, and even offer them the opportunity to fake their location and fake their IP Address, in case of need.
/e/OS has been the first to release such an operating system with very advanced protection against personal data collection. This is without any specific configuration and is usable by anyone, even without previous knowledge.
In the meantime, we have seen other AOSP-based ROM projects starting to communicate on Privacy, some even copying our features. That’s OK!
But we also have been regularly attacked by some of those projects, including by some of their founders, including personal and direct threats. Most of the time, not answering or blocking those people is enough.
But others remain publicly active, and one of their preferred arguments is that /e/OS would be a security nightmare. Their message is actually even more ambiguous because they often implicitly or explicitly claim that privacy and security are the same things, and that /e/OS, as a privacy-focused project, should be the king of security.
However, this is a fallacy:
- /e/OS is not and was never about hardened-security: we design a product that helps any user easily escape personal data collection and digital surveillance. We are not designing /e/OS for people who can be targeted because of their activities. And believe me: those people should just avoid using a smartphone at all, because even the best-hardened Android or iPhone can be penetrated by hackers if the benefit is worth the cost.
- Security and privacy are not the same thing! Of course, we need security… We cannot let everything totally unsecure, open to everyone, and claim privacy. However, what is needed is state-of-the-art security, not just hardened security. Google is maintaining confusion between security and privacy in exactly the same way: “let me catch all your personal data… very securely!”
- /e/OS is secure: we apply AOSP security patches each month (which is not the case of all commercial Android vendors), we update software as much as we can…
Now, we are not perfect: sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we are late on some things for some reasons. That happens, and we try to fix. One of the preferred arguments of our detractors is about the /e/OS web browser and web view…
Historically, we have used the Bromite browser with some specific settings to build the /e/OS browser. But the Bromite browser project has been unmaintained for months, and we have not been able to ship new builds of /e/OS browsers based on recent Chromium releases (today we are stuck at 108). As a result, we are missing out on some new features and, obviously, some security updates that were introduced after version 108. Our support and dev team have been working to find a sustainable solution and process to address this concern, and we hope to reach a viable solution as soon as possible, but it’s not here yet.
While this isn’t a major security concern and doesn’t impact privacy, it still needs to be addressed. Meanwhile, those not confortable with this situation can download an alternative web browser from App Lounge.