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Choosing a smartphone based on the operating system on a smartphone comes down to two options: Android or iPhone. Both collect personal data, track activities and track location.

But with Android there's the option of replacing Android with a custom ROM. Will replacing stock Android on a phone with a custom ROM and removing all Google apps prevent Google from collecting any data?

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    Short answer - yes, you can reduce /eliminate Google factor from your device. For some pointers, see this blog by Izzy. Izzy is a moderator here. In addition you can use other tools like Firewalls, and Xposed modules, to prevent apps leaking PII, one of which is mentioned here. Also, see the tag wiki and questions of privacy tag, which you used for related helpful information – beeshyams Nov 30 '18 at 9:13
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    Using a custom ROM without flashing GApps will massively reduce that, yes. But then you also should avoid all apps from Playstore (e.g. by using F-Droid solely), and don't browse websites (only few, like mine, have no Google trackers involved). As @beeshyams already wrote, a Firewall (root: AFWall+ / no-root: NetGuard) can help reducing it further. Getting it to absolute zero is probably only possible by going into airplane mode. – Izzy Nov 30 '18 at 12:17
  • You should mention what kind of data you are talking about here. If you are using a privacy oriented custom ROM but giving Google maps website access to location through browser app then it also counts as collecting data. If you keep your browser signed in with Gmail and browse the web Google still collects data about you. – Firelord Dec 1 '18 at 5:21
  • Hi. Thanks for answering. @Izzy&@Firelord: I mentioned in the question that I intend to remove Google apps from the phone. Regarding trackers in the browser: would disabling JavaScript and disallowing cookies help? – user942937 Dec 6 '18 at 9:01
  • @user942937 removing GApps from a phone? Have fun. That's not an easy task – and you can never be sure you've got them all (and broke nothing). Always better to start clean, using a custom ROM that ships without them. And while disabling JS might reduce tracker activity, it doesn't completely eliminate it (think of Web bugs) but certainly will limit your browsing experience when done "absolutely". – Izzy Dec 6 '18 at 9:50
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Summing up from the comments:

There's more to it then just getting rid of "Google Apps" – though running a device without them certainly already massively reduces that data collection. A complete elimination can only be achieved by running the device in airplane mode (i.e. not permitting any network connections).

Using a custom ROM without flashing GApps will massively reduce the data collection, yes. But then you also should avoid all apps from Playstore (e.g. by using F-Droid solely), and don't browse websites (only few, like mine, have no Google trackers involved). As @beeshyams already wrote, a Firewall (root: AFWall+ / no-root: NetGuard) can help reducing it further. Getting it to absolute zero is probably only possible by going into airplane mode.

Even if you disable Javascript completely in the browser, there are still Web bugs to consider: tiny, invisible images (1x1 pixel) embedded into web pages for tracking purposes. Websites which are completely free of trackers are rare; at least two thirds of all existing websites integrate at least one (if not more) Google Trackers: Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager (both to be found even here at SE), Google Ads, Google Fonts, miscellaneous Javascripts (ajax.googleapis.com), Google Maps, Youtube, and so on.


TL;DR: You can massively reduce it, but you can't get fully rid of it without breaking stuff. Using a custom ROM without GApps is a good start, avoiding apps from Playstore helps a lot, using a firewall app (AFWall+ if rooted, NetGuard otherwise) helps further. Selectively enable Javascript for websites in your browser (e.g. using the uBlock Origin addon) massively improves on it.

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[ EDIT ] Stop your trigger happy down vote finger for a second.

A custom ROM on Android is usually a modification of the factory edition, a port from a different phone running the same kernel and Android version, or a cross-port to upgrade the version by merging needed firmware files with the new release... Sometimes if the custom ROM builder is intelligent enough, they'll build a complete ROM from the AOSP ( Android Open Source Project ) however that usually requires acces to kernel source and most manufacturers don't release this unless required by law...

To define Custom Rom as a modified stock system with proprietary software removed for copyright compliant releases, then IPhone also has custom ROM's ( Firmware ) because you can Jailbreak an iPhone and modify the system to "customize it".

Ok... so, you can build your own custom ROM that is specifically designed to remove any google data collecting software on Android, as Android is an open sourced project, you can modify it to build your own OS if needed ( one with removed google data collecting software ).

However.

As i assume from your question,
" You Don't Want To Be Tracked In Any Manner "

Google has several methods of data collection, for example if you prefer to use Chrome then data analytic software will collect a lot of information about your browsing habbits ( for improvements to the software ) and to be sold to third party data minners .

Even if you don't use chrome and you avoid using google.com and any related websites/companies or softwares you'd still potentially have data collected by other applications and websites that'll sell this information to a global analytics company ( usually AXIOM or AXIUM .. can't remember the spelling ) .. the company release's information back to Google and Google can still " Track " you regardless of your product choice.

For example if you used Facebook, the fact that around 80% of Internet users have Facebook tells me you most likely do... Facebook is also a company that provides personally identifiable analytics to AXIOM, that can and most probably are purchased by Google and nearly any other company working on artificial Intelligence, AI need's data to lean, human slave works to give it some. The start of the end.

Anyway, you Can remove a lot of data collecting software, but it's only going to either increase someone's interest in your device usage ( Google ) or end up causing data to be collected more often ...

For example if you used Purchased software, it'll be constantly logging to Google that you haven't purchased it, this is because it's constantly connecting to Google's servers to check for purchases by your account, and reporting that it can't verify the purchase because it's missing the Google Play Services application.. In time, this should increase someone's interest ( Application Developers - Google - Others )

The question is why ?
If you need to stop it from collecting your habbits, try using alternative methods, like using DuckDuckGo.com ( a search engine that doesn't track you )

Turn off unnecessary data collection in every application that you can
( Sometimes the switch to turn off analytics is hidden in weird pages like help and info etc... )

So to answer your question in one line.

No, Google has other means of personalized analytics

  • How is your answer addressing "Will replacing stock Android on a phone with a custom ROM and removing all Google apps prevent Google from collecting any data?" – Firelord Dec 1 '18 at 5:22
  • A custom ROM is defined by many attributes, it is necessary to clarify the exact custom ROM, without that clarification i theorised that the questioner didn't fully understand the difference between a custom ROM and a stock ROM. assuming that the questioner has concluded that custom ROM means fully built independently from AOSP source, then you can remove all software that collects data whilst building it. – Zillinium Dec 1 '18 at 13:56
  • Hi. Thanks for answering. I am referring to the more popular ROMs like LineageOS, CopperheadOS, Replicant, etc. – user942937 Dec 6 '18 at 9:07
  • @Zillinium OP didn't want to know what a custom ROM is, nor who can make one. It was specifically about whether it can prevent Google data collection, which you didn't address. So basically, this is NAA (NotAnAnswer). Or it is an answer, but to a different question. – Izzy Dec 6 '18 at 9:56

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