[Community] PRISM

Nick openphoenux at njw.me.uk
Tue Jun 11 13:05:35 CEST 2013

> Are there aspects of an Android system that it is impossible to inspect or program (whether by base install tools, or by already available apps, or by writing one's own app), but which are readily available on GTA04?  Or is it a matter of modem control of the main CPU/memory/filesystem?  Or of requiring lots more closed source drivers than GTA04 does?

The replicant project is a distribution of android that uses only
free software. The main dev, gnutoo (who does lots of excellent
work, including working on porting android to the GTA04) is very
aware of the surveillance issues, so I think replicant is pretty
trustworthy. He talked about the modem control issue at fosdem this
year, slides here:
The GTA04 was much better than most (all?) phones there, certainly.

> Of course there's also that the mainstream Android culture is for people to simply use what they are given, which may mean data going off to Google just as it might do to Apple.  But that's a weaker argument because it's addressible by people like CyanogenMod providing better Android distributions.

Yes, that is true. Saying "don't use iPhone, use android" makes no
real difference if by that you are meaning to use a default android
distribution and link things in with Google. Indeed it probably
makes things worse; Apple are certainly bad actors, but Google's
entire business is structured around surveilling and linking as much
as possible.

> Also point out that one way to combat programs like Prism is for people to control their own decentralised infrastructure; e.g. Friendica rather than Facebook.  Support for this is happening in mainstream Linux more than anywhere else, and GTA04's ability to run mainstream Linux should facilitate the development of GTA04 clients for such infrastructure.

Agreed. Making strong crypto easily available and usable is still
the only real way to ensure freedom to communicate. Android's
popularity does give it some advantage here; I think I've heard
about one or two free software encrypted sms programs available for
it, for example. But if your phone should already be considered
"owned" and has other proprietary software on it, and a potentially
hostile modem with access to everything, then you're still screwed.


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