Mobile Operating System Consent + F-Droid

· mobile android aprs fdroid privacy consent

The LineageOS installation on my Fairphone 2 was getting really old and the updater wasn’t functioning, so I decided to switch back to the Fairphone operating system.

I’m really starting to develop some significant aversions to applications collecting consent for things. The “consent overload” on the web triggered by GDPR has certainly affected me. I can entirely see the appeal of a coping strategy of ignoring the text of those boxes and choosing the fastest way to dismiss them but that would slowly eat away at me in the longer term.

I clicked through a bunch of screens, disabling everything as I went, but even though I could disable and opt-out at each step there was a cost to doing so. Every one of these screens was a reminder that Google sees data as gold to be mined, not as a toxic asset and that in the end if they can find a loophole to collect data without consent then they’re going to try and get away with it.

The final straw was when I went to send an SMS and it asked me if I wanted to instead route all my SMS through a Google messenger service and also submit metadata on all SMS I receive to an anti-spam machine learning system. At that point I decided I couldn’t use this system anymore, and switched instead to Fairphone Open.

The installation is relatively straightforward. I was initially confused when attempting to enter fastboot mode as the screen continued to display the Fairphone logo as if it were still booting, but it was the blue LED I should have been watching out for.

On Debian systems, first download the ZIP file from the above link and then you can install the only requirement for the flashing script and flash the phone with:

sudo apt install fastboot
mkdir fp2-open ; cd fp2-open
unzip ../

The output will look like:

** Fairphone OS 19.11.2 Manual Flashing Script **

WARNING: Flashing this image wipes all user data and settings on the phone.

Validating files...
Validation complete.

One Fairphone 2 in fastboot mode found (serial number: 392fake1).

Are you sure you want to wipe all user data and settings on the phone?
  Type "Yes" to continue: Yes

Proceeding to flash the device.

Sending 'rpm' (186 KB)                             OKAY [  0.009s]
Writing 'rpm'                                      OKAY [  0.008s]
Finished. Total time: 0.021s
Sending 'sbl1' (274 KB)                            OKAY [  0.012s]
Writing 'sbl1'                                     OKAY [  0.006s]
Finished. Total time: 0.023s
Sending 'tz' (334 KB)                              OKAY [  0.014s]
Writing 'tz'                                       OKAY [  0.008s]
Finished. Total time: 0.026s
Sending 'modem' (57585 KB)                         OKAY [  1.806s]
Writing 'modem'                                    OKAY [  0.626s]
Finished. Total time: 2.469s
Sending 'splash' (6075 KB)                         OKAY [  0.193s]
Writing 'splash'                                   OKAY [  0.072s]
Finished. Total time: 0.273s
Sending 'aboot' (536 KB)                           OKAY [  0.020s]
Writing 'aboot'                                    OKAY [  0.016s]
Finished. Total time: 0.040s
Sending 'boot' (11710 KB)                          OKAY [  0.370s]
Writing 'boot'                                     OKAY [  0.127s]
Finished. Total time: 0.506s
Sending 'recovery' (13718 KB)                      OKAY [  0.433s]
Writing 'recovery'                                 OKAY [  0.154s]
Finished. Total time: 0.594s
Sending sparse 'system' 1/2 (510357 KB)            OKAY [ 16.004s]
Writing 'system'                                   OKAY [  8.369s]
Sending sparse 'system' 2/2 (141303 KB)            OKAY [  4.430s]
Writing 'system'                                   OKAY [  2.426s]
Finished. Total time: 31.300s
Sending 'userdata' (138997 KB)                     OKAY [  4.354s]
Writing 'userdata'                                 OKAY [  1.954s]
Finished. Total time: 6.314s
Sending 'cache' (12520 KB)                         OKAY [  0.396s]
Writing 'cache'                                    OKAY [  0.171s]
Finished. Total time: 0.571s

Flashing successful!
Your Fairphone 2 will now run **Fairphone OS 19.11.2**.

Press Enter to reboot the device and complete the installation...
Rebooting                                          OKAY [  0.000s]
Finished. Total time: 0.050s

and that’s it. You’re now running the open version of the Fairphone OS without any Google services. On first boot I was asked for consent zero times!

Firefox Klar, a modified version of Firefox Focus with the telemetry disabled, is installed in the base Fairphone Open image and so visiting the F-Droid website I was able to download and install the APK for the F-Droid app repository.

Things have started to fall apart a bit again though. My main use of the Fairphone has been for amateur radio related activity and it looks like neither APRSdroid or the Mobilinkd TNC configuration utility are present. I’ve not yet looked for satellite pass prediction apps but I’m hoping there’s one of those.

I did get OsmAnd set up though and downloaded offline maps for Scotland. I’m not sure yet what it will take to get these radio related apps into F-Droid but I’m going to have a poke at it and if it’s going to be low effort then I’ll see if I can make it happen.

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