I have contacts from years ago (college friends, old colleagues, etc.) that I don't want to delete, but I also don't want to accidentally butt-dial at 3 am. How do I archive those old numbers for future use, but hide them from my phone app?

I've been told that I can put them all in a different gmail account, or under a different label, and then hide those from display in my contacts app, but that only works for when I'm using my contacts app. All those old phone numbers are still listed in my text and phone apps.

I've tried 4 different phone apps (Google Voice, Google Phone, Android Phone, and Should I Answer) and none of them appear to allow me to hide contacts or only view contacts from specific gmail accounts. Same issue with text apps (WhatsApp, Android Messages, Google Message, MySMS, etc.).

It really should not be this difficult to tell Android "I just want to see a list of numbers I created, not every single phone number I have ever saved in my entire life."

1 Answer 1


I agree 100%. This problem is a PITA, and AFAIK Google has not offered any feasible solution. In addition, if an app steals your list of contacts, or anyone's cloud database gets compromised, every single contact you ever had gets released into the wild.

My current solution is not ideal, and is really a workaround. It consists of three primary processes:

  1. Use only local contacts, and do not sync contacts at all. If you really want synced contacts, sync them with a private cloud operating on your own server.

  2. Regularly backup all your contacts to a CSV or JSON file. Manually cut and paste all the contacts from that backup that you don't currently need to an "old contacts" file. After removing many of the contacts from the original file, delete all contacts on Android and import the smaller file of current contacts. Of course, before deleting anything, ensure the export-import round-trip will work and no data (such as contact images and custom fields) is lost.

  3. Now that you have a smaller list of contacts on Android, assign a tag/label to contacts you still want to have handy, but you will rarely contact. Then hide all contacts with that tag/label from showing. As you noted, this only works in your contacts app, but the larger issue is dealt with by process #2 above.

This workaround model is certainly not ideal, and is time-consuming, but I know of nothing better offered by Google. Remember, Google is primarily a data mining company, and they seldom offer tools that result in them collecting less of your data.

An alternative to the above workaround system is to move all contacts to the OpenContacts app or the Contact Book app. They are both completely open-source and store all contacts in their own private databases. Google apps and other apps cannot read those contact databases (unless they are malicious and breach the Android security model). You can use one of those apps by itself or in combination with the standard Android contacts databases. If you do this, all apps with appropriate Android permissions will be able to see the Android contacts, but not those stored in the OpenContacts app or Contact Book app.

  • 1
    Thank you! I'll probably try one of your workarounds. I'll feel safer knowing that my Contacts aren't being datamined or whatever, too. Mar 30, 2021 at 15:32
  • You're welcome! One thing I also do is remove the Contacts permission from any app that does not really need my contacts. Which, in my case, is every app except one. Note that Google apps will often give themselves access to your contacts even after you have set them to have no access to your contacts. This inappropriate sneakiness often happens when the device is rebooted or their apps update. Mar 30, 2021 at 21:18

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