MAGA 'Freedom Phone' Targets Rubes With Dubious Promises Of Privacy
from the one-born-every-minute dept
If you hadn’t noticed, there’s been no shortage of dodgy folks attempting to cash in on the MAGA craze. There’s also been no shortage of folks eager to cash in on the generalized animosity against “big tech” driven by bogus claims of “Conservative censorship” (aka: people being held vaguely accountable for being racist assholes on the internet via clumsy Silicon Valley moderation practices that don’t work well at scale).
Enter the $500 Freedom phone, a new device being targeted at MAGA devotees promising an “uncensorable App Store,” all your favorite right-wing apps preloaded, and promises that users can take “back control” from big ‘ole mean big tech.
Amusingly there’s no real detail anywhere on the website in terms of specs or build, meaning users have no real idea what they’re actually signing up for. But when The Daily Beast had somebody take a closer look at the device, they found it was likely a Chinese-made A9Pro (retail: $120) running a modified version of Google’s Android OS dubbed “FreedomOS”:
“Freedom Phone appears to be a simple rebranding of a budget phone called the ?Umidigi A9 Pro,? made by the Chinese tech company Umidigi. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Finman confirmed that the Freedom Phone was manufactured by Umidigi, but couldn?t say immediately which Umidigi phone it was based on.
The Freedom Phone?s $500 price tag would represent a substantial markup on the Umidigi A9 Pro. That phone is available on Chinese retail giant AliExpress for $120 ? less than one quarter of the price of a Freedom Phone.”
The phone in question appears to be one of several discounted Android phones with insecure configurations that are vulnerable to a long list of trivial vulnerabilities. The low cost, high-customizability of such phones make them more vulnerable than more expensive options, and less likely to see consistent security updates. In short, the Freedom phone appears to not only be an overpriced version of a fairly underwhelming phone, it potentially makes its customers more vulnerable to the type of spying and government surveillance they’re being told they’re avoiding.
In a post to Twitter, the phone’s creator proclaims the phone is “the first major pushback on the Big Tech companies that attacked us – for just thinking different.” Though as several Twitter users were quick to point out, a completely unmoderated or managed app store means it’s easy for any random idiot (or government) to launch a bevy of privacy-violating and malware-laden apps designed to hoover up your personal details:
Nice! An Android phone with an App Store that doesn?t check for viruses or malware in the apps!
This is awesome!
I wonder how hard it would be to put an app up that allowed a foreign power to spy on your freedom phone?
99% of the apps will be porn!
— Texas Born and Raised Texan (@feloneouscat) July 14, 2021
As Gizmodo notes, the ironic part is there’s ample resources for folks genuinely interested in freeing themselves from Google and Apple. There’s massive online communities designed around letting you bypass the Android/iOS gatekeeper logjam, often for a fraction of the cost of the Freedomphone. The Linux-based Pine phone, for example, offers a significantly cheaper option with greater transparency into what you’re actually buying. The /e/ Foundation also sells refurbished and “de-Googled” discount phones that are likely notably more secure at a lower price point (with caveats).
Of course this all assumes that you genuinely care about privacy and aren’t just gesticulating wildly based on a bunch of bullshit fed to you by a NYC real estate conman with a terrible combover.