Life tools: Exodus

We all know we are being spied on.

The surveillance economy cuts you up and sells you in pieces to anyone able to pony up enough cash. The Koch brothers have bought dossiers on nearly every legal voter in the USA, which they use to manipulate elections in the country. The data which drives i360, Data Trust, and Cambridge Analytica is as likely or more likely collected – not only on Facebook, Youtube, or other social media platform – but on your personal devices.

But you can spy on the spies.

No, knowing who is spying on you will not stop them. But maybe you can make more informed choices.

Exodus Privacy logo, from https://exodus-privacy.eu.org/

Exodus Privacy, a little-known group based in France, has an app which is quietly amassing a database about the spies. People who install their app can allow it to scan the other applications installed on their devices, looking for tell-tale signatures of various scripts which spy on you. They also collect information on what permissions these applications need from your device’s operating system. And then they compile reports to show you which apps are using dangerous-to-your-privacy permissions, such as being able to secretly send data to a url, or reading external storage. Which, incidentally, you do not need the app to access – you can browse them via their website.

For example, Exodus reports the android news application RFI statically loads at least 18 different trackers, and requires the permission to see who you are calling (and, optionally, reroute the call to a different number) among other operating system permissions deemed “dangerous” by the group.

There are other methods of gaining access to the same articles – for example using an RSS reader. One could, as an example, use the Le Monde official app (report), or LeMonde.fr – a free tweaked RSS reader/screenscrper app available via F-Droid, or perhaps a generic RSS reader like Handy News Reader (report). Yes, the Le Monde official program has some features not available in the other two, like the live coverage of breaking events. It also has 20+ trackers, and uses both dangerous and device-specific permissions, which the other two do not.

Using Exodus Privacy to do a bit of research  before choosing an app is the equivalent of reading the label in the grocery store. It is easy, quick, and relatively painless to get a pretty good idea of what you might be putting on your device. (Using Yalp[F] makes it even easier, and also limits how much Google knows about what you put on your phone.)