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eelo is a Google-free alternative for people focused on privacy

The idea behind eelo is to offer a Google-free alternative to Android that features open-source alternatives and increased privacy protections.

Published onJanuary 3, 2018

  • eelo is a Google-free alternative that is based on Android
  • The idea behind eelo is to place an emphasis on privacy
  • eelo’s Kickstarter campaign has already garnered almost $60,000 from backers

In a world where privacy seems to be at a premium, it’s no surprise that companies like Silent Circle and BlackBerry have attempted to harness that market of people who place significant weight on privacy. Attempts to do so have been met with disappointment, though Gaël Duval still wants to capitalize on that target niche with his eelo mobile operating system.

A prominent member of the open source and Linux communities, Duval seems tired of having his privacy be at the mercy of companies like Apple and Google:

Google has become too big and is tracking us by catching a lot of information about what we do. They want to know us as much as possible to sell advertising. I want to reconquer my privacy.

As a result, he teamed up with two other developers to create eelo, an Android-based operating system that places an emphasis on privacy.

Duval says he looked at alternatives, such as Firefox OS, but insinuated they failed at being simple and intuitive enough for folks to use. He also said the idea is not to create a Linux-based smartphone operating system, since doing so requires a great deal of effort that, as companies like Canonical eventually learned, failed miserably.

Instead, eelo was born from the existing LineageOS, itself an Android-based open-source operating system that rose from the ashes of CyanogenMod. However, Duval said this was not good enough for his needs, since aesthetics were lacking and the number of included “micro-details” would be “showstoppers for regular users.”

Because of this, even though eelo is based on Android, it will featured a redesigned launcher, icons, notification system, and “control center.” The operating system will also forgo the Google Play Store, Google Play Services, and Google Services, which will be a bitter pill to swallow for those who find them useful.

Instead, Duval hopes to include an “eelo store” that contains official free applications like APKPure and open-source applications like F-Droid. Also, possibly replacing Google Services is MicroG, an open-source implementation of Google’s proprietary core libraries and applications, while Magisk Manager will deal with programs that use Google’s SafetyNet API.

As for search, the idea is to use DuckDuckGo and Qwant, though you can choose your own search engine. Finally, eelo will use the Quad 9 Domain Name System (DNS), which blocks access to known malicious sites while retaining your privacy.

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The question, then, is whether Duval will succeed with eelo. Unlike other attempts, which paired privacy-focused operating systems with dedicated hardware, Duval wants eelo to be a “non-profit project, a project ‘in the public interest.'” That doesn’t mean eelo will be free for everyone — Duval envisions preloaded versions of eelo on smartphones and premium services for enterprise — but that profit will not be a primary objective.

Of course, having some money doesn’t hurt — Duval’s Kickstarter page for eelo has already garnered almost $59,800, which is well past the $30,000 goal with 17 days left in the campaign. If all goes well, we should see eelo debut sometime in March.

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