Purism and e Foundation take on the smartphone duopoly

For years, the devices and services we use have ever more aggressively monitored our activities and mined our data. But as consumers have grown increasingly attuned to privacy concerns, solutions have been appearing to help them evade tracking. Browsers such as Brave and search engines such as DuckDuckGo play up their privacy-first design. When it comes to the dominant mobile operating systems, Google has talked about preserving privacy by providing more transparency and exposing opt-out controls. Apple, on the other hand, has sought to create services that remove the opt-out requirement by not collecting data in the first place, turning privacy preservation into a key differentiator.

But many users aren’t comfortable even with Apple’s approach. Recently, two groups have created new platforms that avoid sharing data with Google, Apple, or any other entity behind the scenes. Nevertheless, their product-development approaches parallel the market strategies of Google and Apple, with some striking differences.

[Animation: courtesy of e Foundation]

One of these is the e Foundation. Its eOS aspires to be a Google-free version of Android that has a wide range of device support. It’s not a new idea: One existing alternative to Google’s flavor of Android is LineageOS, a fork of what had been the leading Google Android alternative, CyanogenMod. However, according to Gaël Duval, head of e Foundation, producing a version of Android that is completely Google-free requires far more effort than just stripping out Google apps such as Gmail; even LineageOS sends some data through Google’s servers or relies on its services.

20 years ago, Duval created Mandrake Linux, a more approachable distribution of the open-source operating system. Drawing on this experience, he wants to make replacing Google’s Android with the foundation’s eOS version as simple as clicking a button on an installer app. The software’s current beta version supports about 75 different smartphone…

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