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All Private Everything: PRISM-Free Phones and Operating Systems

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This is a fun thought. With PRISM probing into the data held by nearly every major tech company (despite their resistance), are there private alternatives? After all, with the major tech players buying up significant startups, your entire digital existence may be owned by two or three companies.

Personally, I'm carrying a Google Nexus Android phone and tablet, using Gmail (personal) and Google Apps (professional) for my email, contacts, and calendaring needs, and Google Chrome for my web-browsing. Google Voice handles my voicemail and text messaging. Google owns my digital life. With their questionable privacy policy, and PRISM involvement, at what point do I call it quits and move on?

Here are the rules of the game: Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and Dropbox are all off the market, as they are either PRISM participants (willing or not) or are scheduled to join. That leaves us with just about no one. But...

Desktop and Laptop Operating System

Goodbye Windows 7 and 8.1 Blue. Adios Apple and Mac OS X. Hello open-source Linux. And yes, it is possible to run a law firm using the (free) Ubuntu Linux or another variant.

Smartphone and Tablet Operating System

Tough one. Google's Android is out. Apple's iPhone and iPad are out. Microsoft's Windows Phone, Windows RT, and other variants are all out.

Who does that leave? Remember that company that once dominated the smartphone market, only to lose their share completely when they fell behind the times?

Welcome back BlackBerry! You lost so much market significance that the government didn't tap your data (that we know of). Your privacy and security reputation also is stellar, though we'll be taking a closer look at your lengthy privacy policy soon.

BlackBerry isn't a bad alternative. If you're a physical keyboard aficionado, and want access to many of the latest mobile apps (though not all, as BlackBerry has a tiny market share as of now), it is probably your only pro-privacy alternative.

Unfortunately, if you're looking for a tablet, BlackBerry has abandoned their most-recent offering and has yet to announce any future products outside of their smartphone specialty.

Phone Carriers

This is probably the toughest one. If you're truly privacy paranoid, you'll have to avoid all of the major carriers and switch to the time-honored (by drug dealers) "burner" system. That means purchasing prepaid SIM cards (the chip you install when you first activate your phone) at your local Walmart on a monthly basis. Even that is imperfect, as you'll be changing phone numbers each time and, if the carrier is truly motivated by the NSA, they can track your smartphone's electronic serial number.

The only true way to remain completely anonymous is using cheap prepaid "dumbphones" and tossing them regularly. The NSA still might be able to track you, however, based on your regularly-called numbers and geographic location.

But Wait, There's More!

What about email, social networking, cloud storage, and other conveniences of modern life? We'll be bringing you non-PRISM-ish ideas for these services soon.

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