Threats to your privacy and security are everywhere, so protecting your data should have the highest priority for everyone with a smartphone. But a threat that many people overlook is the company that delivers the operating system of your Android phone ̵1; Google.
Google offers lots of great programs and services for free. But if Google doesn't charge for these services, how can they be the world's most valuable brand? The answer is simple: If the product is free, you are the product. Google has found that advertisers are willing to pay more money than consumers.
If Google can download the software in as many hands as possible, they can collect enough data to offer highly targeted ads. Companies are willing to pay big money to someone who can make sure their ads reach the target audience, and Google does just that. However, Google achieves this by gathering huge amounts of usage data and other information from people who use their free software – including Android.
Smartphones are full of the type of personal information that can match a potential customer with a perfectly targeted ad, so Google uses data on your device to learn who you are and what you like. But you don't have to look helplessly when Google collects your data – you can protect yourself with the following tips.
Tip # 1: Remove Ads Customization
With what is called an advertising ID, Google provides advertisers with potentially identifiable information about you, such as your location and the apps you use. Wired has a fantastic article that shows how this data can be used by any individual (not just companies).
Google gives some control over this data by allowing you to opt out of custom ads. By doing so, you will prevent access to your unique advertising ID for apps and advertisers. To opt out, go to the phone's main settings menu and select "Google". From there, select the "Ads" option and select "Deselect Ad Advertising" to disable it.
Tip # 2: Change Your Default DNS Server  The location of devices and websites on the Internet is registered using IP addresses. IP addresses are a series number that acts as an address for these devices.
As you know when you go to a website, do not write a series of numbers but rather the name of the site with its top-level domain (for example, .com, .net, or .org). When entering the site's name, this request is sent to a server that matches what you wrote to the corresponding IP address of the site, which is then used to direct your traffic to the intended site. This server is DNS or Domain Name System .
By default, Android's default DNS is provided by the mobile operator when using mobile data. When using your home Wi-Fi, it uses your ISP's DNS. However, it has been against Google's DNS servers because they are usually faster than your ISP. Many trust Google over Comcast or Spectrum and therefore change their DNS servers to Google.
However, Google does the same thing that your ISP does when using its DNS servers. The reason why Google delivers DNS servers is that they can read the requests to their servers to create an ad profile for you to sell ads.
The problem here is that prior to Android 9 Pie it was not easy to change DNS servers. On Android 8.0 Oreo and older versions that over 90% of Android phones are currently running – there is no option to change DNS for mobile phones, and only limited options when using Wi-Fi. But security-conscious individuals have created an app to correct this problem.
Use the app by selecting "Open DNS" from the drop-down menu and press "Start." A popup will pop up and inform you that the app will create a VPN connection. Select "OK" at this popup to change DNS servers. Now, when you request a site while browsing (or using an app), your request will not be read by Google and is logged on for ad tracking.
Tip # 3: Use a VPN to encrypt all traffic
To piggyback the last step, another way to automatically change your DNS service and protect your data at the same time transit is to use a VPN. VPN, or Virtual Private Networks protect your data by re-routing all traffic through a secure, usually encrypted server.
Privacy comes in the form of hiding your IP address, which corresponds to your address. This address is an identifiable marker used by the Internet to transfer data to and from your personal devices. With access to this information, Google (or a hacker, for that matter) can compile a lot of information about you.
A VPN will mask your real IP address by directing all traffic from your device to its servers, which seems to be a buffer between you and the internet. When the data is sent from your device, the source address's IP address (the return address) as the receiver sees the IP address of the VPN server instead of your own. Therefore, your privacy is protected from potential hackers.
Most VPN services add another security layer by encrypting all your data traffic. Encryption is similar to a virtual security that hides your data from prying eyes. Although many websites provide some form of encryption, not all traffic gets this protection – while with the right VPN, all communications will be encrypted.
Usually, VPN services have their own DNS servers to enhance the protection of your privacy from companies like Google and your ISP. As long as you use a VPN, the vast majority of your data is safe from Google's stylish eyes.
You can't use a VPN and DNS changer at the same time (because DNS changer achieves its goal with a VPN), so we recommend choosing one based on your needs and finances. A good VPN will have a subscription fee, while DNS Changer is available. However, the DNS changer only protects your request to the site as it leads to the DNS servers, while a VPN service protects your data from the moment you request a site to access the site (and vice versa).
If you decide to use a VPN, a good choice is NordVPN. NordVPN offers one of the highest levels of protection in an app that is visually appealing and easy to use. NordVPN has a seven-day free trial to test the water and discounts if you purchase the service in advance (ie pay for the year instead of every month).
We Think This Last Tip Is Optional Because Of The Great the convenience provided by Google's security service. If you disable this feature the next time you break this unit or switch to another phone, your data will not follow if you do not physically have the previous device. However, it is a court case, so you may want to shop in this convenience for a theoretical bump in privacy.
If you really want get Google from your phone is finally the core: Install a custom ROM to replace the Android operating system's Android, use microG instead of Google Play Services, and then replace the functionality of Google Apps with as many options as possible. If you are interested, we have outlined that process in our final guide to using Android without Google.
This article has been produced under the Gadget Hack's special coverage of smartphone privacy and security. Check out the entire privacy and security series.