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LineageOS vs OxygenOS: Should You Switch?

When it comes to custom ROM choices, OnePlus users are awash with options! As such, choosing LineageOS vs OxygenOS is a hot topic among OnePlus smartphone owners.

While most users will likely stick with the stock OxygenOS image, LineageOS is a popular alternative. Why might someone choose LineageOS over OxygenOS, given that both purport to be as close to “stock Android” as possible?

For starters, LineageOS is widely known as a great ROM for breathing new life into old smartphones. Owners of dated OnePlus models can keep their software up to date long after it has stopped receiving official updates.

Yet a second reason for reconsidering OxygenOS is now emerging: Privacy.

Privacy from who, you might ask? Both OnePlus itself and, optionally, the Google surveillance dragnet.

OxygenOS and Data Harvesting Backdoors

As a hardware manufacturer, we’ve got to hand it to OnePlus. Their smartphones are of incredibly high build quality and their commitment to unlocked bootloaders is a rarity, especially in the US smartphone market.

We at PrivacyToGo happily carry fully degoogled OnePlus devices in our shop without OxygenOS for this reason.

However, the stock OnePlus ROM, OxygenOS, has a more sordid history.

2017 was a rough year for OnePlus, the Shenzen-based manufacturer behind OxygenOS, as two major privacy scandals rocked the company.

First came the revelation of OnePlus Analytics, a tool that can only be described as spyware. Privacy researcher Chris Moore unveiled on his blog a set of API calls being made by OxygenOS, and the revelations were startling.

OnePlus was collecting vast swaths of data on OxygenOS users without their consent, including:

  • Serial number
  • Phone number
  • MAC address
  • IMEI (unique device identifier)
  • IMSI (unique carrier identifier)
  • ESSID (wireless network data)
  • Timestamped application usage

That’s a lot of personally identifiable information.

Just weeks later, another privacy researcher revealed Engineer Mode, a backdoor to OnePlus root access in devices with Qualcomm chips.

OnePlus was quick to retract their data harvesting operation, but the question remains: Can OxygenOS be trusted with your data in the future?

Well, as of September 2016, OnePlus merged development of its Chinese-only HydrogenOS with OxygenOS. In other words, the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance requirements are now being applied to OnePlus devices the world over.

Furthermore, OnePlus development of OxygenOS only began after a high-profile trade dispute in India barred them from shipping CyanogenMOD (the predecessor of LineageOS) to that market. Rather than sell OnePlus devices with open-source alternatives by default, OnePlus opted to develop its own OS with spyware in tow.

But if this isn’t enough reason for privacy aficionados to choose LineageOS vs OxygenOS, the second threat to your digital autonomy is far more pervasive.

Google Apps: A Privacy Nightmare

If you’re an Android user concerned about privacy, Google is doubtlessly the biggest threat to your autonomy.

The risks presented to individual privacy by closed-source Google Apps on Android are almost too many to list. Contact tracing. Hyperaccurate location data. Device fingerprinting. Alert snooping.

An exhaustive list is beyond the scope of this article.

But when it comes to LineageOS vs OxygenOS, the choice is clear: OxygenOS cannot be degoogled.

LineageOS, by contrast, is almost tailor-made to remove Google spyware.

By default, LineageOS ships with no Google Apps or centralized Google fingerprinting whatsoever. In the battle of who is closest to “stock Android,” LineageOS is the clear winner over OxygenOS and its built-in Google App suite.

In addition, forks of LineageOS exist to restore some of the GSuite’s core functionality while simultaneously providing disinformation to Google servers, all while remaining open-source. The same is simply not possible with OxygenOS.

In short, if avoiding Google’s heavy-handed surveillance is the reason you bought a OnePlus device, you’re best off getting rid of OxygenOS altogether.

LineageOS vs OxygenOS: In Closing

For the privacy-conscious smartphone user, OxygenOS is simply not preferable.

OnePlus-developed software has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted with sensitive user data. And worse, Google as a whole is equally untrustworthy despite powering a shocking 87% of all mobile internet traffic.

Thankfully, OnePlus’s longstanding commitment to unlocked bootloaders means that smartphone owners aren’t stuck with OxygenOS unless they want to be.

If privacy is at the forefront of your tech concerns, consider flashing LineageOS to your OnePlus smartphone.

And if you’re concerned about Big Tech snoops like OnePlus and Google but are intimidated by the technical nature of changing your smartphone’s OS, you can always purchase a degoogled OnePlus device directly.

Stay informed, stay free.

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