ELI60 How would you know that Google doesn't have something "odd" in their Pixel phone?

I’m trying to convince an elderly member of my family to get a Pixel with GrapheneOS. He’s been using Samsung for as long he owns a phone. Although it’s a tad too late now since he was getting an S24 in the end, he has a question that I couldn’t answer in a way that is easy to understand for him.

The question was in the topic title. I could have flipped the question back to him, “How would you know Samsung didn’t do the same?” but I don’t think that would support the case in getting a Pixel.

Tbh, I also don’t know the answer, but I trust GrapheneOS and open source community more than corporations, especially when their business model is around personal data. I understand this line of reasoning may not work for people who in the end, prefers convenience vs privacy anyway.

So out of curiosity, could someone enlighten me how I should approach this kind of question next time it may happen?

1 Like

By trusting security researchers who haven’t found anything malicious and the large open-source community around Android.

Which sometimes works, unless someone is so far gone with the crazies that they go full anti-intellectual conspiracy bs mode.

3 Likes

There’s a point where you will have to make assumptions and trust entities. It would be extremely hard to insert nefarious code/behaviour to AOSP. They might be able to put nefarious code in driver binaries, and chip firmwares like the Titan M2, but I think the negatives of them doing that vastly out weight the benefits. Nothing has been found so far, and if it were to be found, they would lose a lot of the trust of many corporate customers, they would open themselves for massive lawsuits in many countries, all the intelligence agencies will start to coerce Google into giving them access to all that backdoored hardware… And for what? They surveil everyone using Google services already, so the only extra people they would be able to surveil would be that 0.001% of people with a degoogled Pixel.

1 Like

I’m not sure if this is a good idea.
At the very least the person should themself be interested in privacy/security and how to improve it. Otherwise they end up with a device that they don’t understand and probably don’t even want.

I would have suggested a stock Pixel to that family member though.

9 Likes
1 Like

Everyone gave great replies here, but i really agree with Valynor

You shouldn’t try to change someone’s current lifestyle choice (device here) if they have no interest/desire in doing so, it ends up being a losing battle from the start, or at least one positioned at a disadvantage

I think what you could do is show something more concrete, like show Samsung’s data-collection and privacy policies and compare them with Graphene (which strips Google tracking), and go from there

I don’t think it’s crazy to remain skeptical, even if it leans to extreme degrees. Everyone considered the levels of surveillance Snowden exposed to be “crazy” and “absurd”, and guess how things turned out…so it’s not far from the impossible

2 Likes

Thanks all, these all make sense.

@quitet.gear your explanation shed a new light to me on how hardware couldn’t work without conjunction with software (code, driver binaries, etc). I think in his mind, the “backdoor” could also be a hardware piece that we may not know, but I think the possibility of that without being discovered is close to impossible compared to a piece of code I’d say. Because his line of reasoning was around “a phone made by Google”.

@Valynor Yep totally agree with you. When I asked him why you chose S24 in the end, was as simple as, “because it’s an easy one click to transfer data from my old phone”. He backs up all his apps and data to his google account for this one convenience. Idk if there’s an alternative to this because data transfer is not an issue for me personally. But more because I’m fine with sacrificing that one click ease with data compartmentalization.

Thanks a lot for this! A definite eye opener :slight_smile:

1 Like

This Techlore video also speaks about this subject.

And this website has some comments criticising the video, but I didn’t verify their accuracy.

Tldr- dont worry about it. Take care of yourself.

Dont push him or anyone. I put my fam on Samsung’s so i dont have to deal w their BS. They can go to samsung store if they want to and or if im unavailable for their questioning.
I run GOS and deal w my own shit/issues.

I read this whole thread, and this is a takeaway that I got from it:

Don’t help or educate your family members, and let their data be collected and sold by Google, Samsung, and probably their carrier too if they get their phone from the carrier.

Also, just let your family members get fucked by Samsung’s customer support, who treats their customers like this:

@Grunge164 if you have the time, then show your family members the advantages of a Pixel device with GrapheneOS and the disadvantages of bloated spyware like Samsung phones, etc. Also, if you have time, then help them if they encounter any issues; after all, they’re your family.

2 Likes

This is the guy that doesn’t recommend GrapheneOS based on personal issues with project leader? lol.

Yes.

You read what you want to read from it, I guess.

3 Likes

Thanks @Lukas @Viper @8pen-s8urce. I see all fair assesment and balance re: how much a push is a push. At the end of the day, you can only do so much to point out the ups and downs, and they will need to make the decision for themselves.

I think for older gens, the line of thinking goes like this: does this have a visible impact for me? If not, then why bother. So far, samsung has been working well for him so good for him. At least I didy part to educate.

It was just that one question that I couldn’t answer and I would like to prep myself in case it happens again :slight_smile:

4 Likes

No, this is off topic anyway but Rossmann has continued to recommend GrapheneOS. His choice to stop using it was for personal reasons which he has said do not apply to other people.

I actually know something about this and have done this with my father who is in their 80s. He only uses a few standard google apps, like contacts, calendars, mail and Vanadium with Adguard DoH provider. It’s a very good way to have a no-nonsense handset with basically the things a person might expect. This person isn’t interested in social media or any of that nonsense. We have a private element room that we use for family chatter and that’s it.

Over time we added Quillpad to it so he can make some notes, mostly because he used to write things on pieces of paper and then lose them.

Of course with any recommendation you will have to support it. At that age it really depends on the cognitive ability of the person too.

This has been a painless experience for me too to support.

10 Likes

He was talking about Henry, not Rossmann.

Thanks, my bad

I feel like a great way to get someone older/someone who doesn’t really care about their privacy to sort of “care” about their privacy is to make it as straightforward and familiar as possible. Like sure maybe we won’t explain to them threat modelling and “nerdy” stuff like that, better to just provide them something with everything without Google spying on hem. Like I was thinking it would be a good idea to just give them a pixel with grapheneos on it and then pretend it’s the new cool Samsung phone that’s the most updated and slightly different and that doesn’t have bad stuff in it, and then let them get used to it by explaining them how to do what they want. I think you did a great job :+1:

1 Like