The next big Google competitor?
For over a decade, after being created by Google in 2008, android has become the proprietary open-source operating system that has been reskinned by smartphone companies such as Samsung and their OneUI. However, slowly, companies are switching to closed source UIs, whereby more user information is being recorded without them knowing.
For example, Google would require permission for contacts, phone storage, the camera; just to be able to create an email account and download apps on a device. This on average happens every 4.5 minutes where the phone connects to Google’s services to send user data. To tackle this problem, Calyx Institute has come up with its own operating system that aims to secure user privacy and make sure that corporations are not able to collect data on their users.
Why is privacy such an issue?
In an increasingly connected world, the barriers between people and what they do and do not share are decreasing, and with increased access, people open up more of their data to private corporations such as Apple or Google. These companies at their base are advertising companies and do not hesitate to use user data to target ads and try to exploit more money out of their users. Additionally, these companies have been caught providing user data to governments that simply ask for it, who would perhaps want to censor their audience and populations. There have even been instances where innocent people have been taken to court all because their location data show them close to the vicinity of a crime scene. This raises a question of how secure people actually are; for most of the population, they just know data is being sent and not exactly what it is. Calyx OS aims to fix this problem and make users feel more secure.
They argue that privacy is a basic human right and in the same way that someone isn’t allowed to break into your home and read your diary, companies and governments shouldn’t be able to access your private online data.
Some of the key security features are:
Anonymously download and use apps from Google Play, via Aurora Store, made possible by microG
Free VPNs from Calyx and RiseUp and CloudFlare DNS
Datura Firewall providing micro-level control over apps for accessing the network
Secure data back-up on "Nextcloud" with end-to-end client-side encryption
Is Calyx a threat to Google?
The answer is yes and no, the OS is still in a developing phase and the user interface of it may be hard to use for most users; additionally, it’ll be harder for users to adapt to this OS due to how mainstream google services have become and the discomfort users might face if their data that is used to make their lives easier is not stored. Another problem is that this OS is entirely open source and therefore is not a viable business model for the Calyx Institute to pursue and make mainstream. Currently, it only works on pixel devices.
There’s no proven way of measuring that the data accessed by companies is in no way harmful to the average user, which also makes their argument about privacy a little redundant.
However, there is still a possibility that Calyx would be able to pose a plausible threat to Google’s ‘monopoly” which is through partnering with an OEM (a company that makes their own hardware such as Xiaomi or OnePlus) who would be willing to pre-install this software on their devices.
In conclusion, for now, there are many issues to be fixed with Calyx OS and in such an early stage may not pose a plausible threat. But, there is a growing market and need for more privacy, which makes this software a desirable commodity in our world.
Written by Dhruv Kothari
Edited by Amanda Y