Consumers have little power to change their relationship with the big technology companies. We could debate whether this is healthy, but it’s increasingly clear that many very profitable businesses are based on “monetizing the user”. In the U.S. there is increasing momentum around “Right to Repair” legislation for smartphones. It’s not just about replacing the battery or fixing a broken screen. It’s a much more powerful idea that says if own it you should be able to make any changes you want. The smartphone industry has somehow changed the meaning of owning a device to the point where you can’t fix it, can’t change it, and don’t really even control it anymore.
If I could talk with a smartphone maker, I imagine this is how it would go:
Me: “I want to install a different operating system on this phone I paid for.”
Smartphone Maker: “Sorry, you can’t do that. We’ve locked the bootloader so it will only load our OS.”
Me: “But I don’t want your OS. Your OS collects location, activity data, and advertising tracking codes on everything I do. I don’t want to be tracked.”
Smartphone Maker: “Sorry, but those features are integral to the way the platform works. Besides, we need that data to fund our advertising business.”
Me: “I’m not interested in helping you do advertising. I just wanted a phone. I paid you for it, now leave me alone.”
Smartphone Maker: “Sorry, but you agreed to all this when you clicked our license agreement. By the way, how did you enjoy your visit to the coffee shop this morning? Can you give us your review?”
You might wonder if the U.S. Government has a deal with the smartphone makers to exempt their phones from ad, location, and activity tracking.
Those “secure” government smartphones still contain all the insidious data-collection and third-party ad-tracking SDKs. Government purchasers are at the same disadvantage as consumers in the mobile phone market, but their users are at far greater risk as they are often targeted by foreign adversaries.
To prevent government users from being tracked and targeted, it is essential to remove these consumer monetization features. This is CIS Mobile’s mission.
altOS is based on the latest Android OS, but is re-engineered to remove the tracking capabilities and to ensure government staff are in full control at all times. We currently run on several excellent smartphones, including Google’s Pixel 3a and 4a, as well as Sonim’s rugged XP8.
If you’re wondering where the other big names are on the list, so are we. What will it take to get them on board with the need to provide a truly secure platform for government use?