Can We Really go "Ghost" w/ Our Devices?

Every now and again some geek will reach out and attempt to discredit our “Ghost” products and services. The claims are always related to one, some, or all of the following:

  1. …but you use Google Pixel phones! GOOGLE made the phones!
  2. …but it’s impossible to not be tracked by the mobile service providers!
  3. …but the hardware provides back door access to (Google, China, intelligence agencies, hackers, etc.)

I’d like to set the record straight here so I don’t have to keep having the same conversations over and over again.

The “…but Google” Argument

We believe Google is evil. We believe their “DO NO EVIL” slogan from the start was a joke. We know the majority of their revenues during their first few years (and large % even today) were coming from the online porn industry. We know their intentions from the onset have always been to become a primary tool for global surveillance and, to this end, we know they were initially funded via various DoD projects and have always been closely connected to our intelligence agencies.

This is all true. Follow the money. Look at the ownership. Learn the ethos of the ownership.

Thus, it makes sense that some people may initially think that by using the Google Pixel phone we are simply supporting Google or allowing Google to track you.

This, however, is not the case. Here’s why…

Refurbished Phones

No $ goes to Google when we buy, or you buy, one of our devices. This is because we believe the planned obsolescence economy is a fraud and should be stopped. The phones we are selling are refurbished "mint" or "near mint" condition Google Pixel devices bought from resellers across the country. With nearly 15 billion mobile phones on the planet and a population of only 8 billion, there are an almost infinite supply of used “near mint” condition phones that work extremely well. There is absolutely NO NEED to manufacture new devices. New devices require the mining of more precious metals out of the earth using child labor and what we know are horrific conditions creating massive waste and pollution in countries such as China and Africa.

All those who sell, or are working on developing, NEW “secure” phones (such as Gabb, Unplugged, Elon Musk’s proposed “Telsla Pi” phone or even the new phone Gregg Phillips is purported to be working on) are thus creating more DEMAND for the manufacturing of the required minerals and materials harvested by the exploitation of labor overseas. They are also all using closed source operating systems, which is something we fundamentally disagree with for all the reasons I discuss during my live Digital Privacy Bootcamps.

Hence, when you’re buying a Ghost Phone or even Ghost Laptop from MARK37, you’re not buying a brand new device. You are buying a refurbished device that we have sourced to ensure functionality and, more importantly, the ability for us to wipe off all Google software that was loaded on the device. This requires finding devices that are “OEM unlocked” which is much different than the “Carrier Unlocked” phones you can find at Best Buy or Walmart.

Worth noting, a huge reason why Apple, Google and other phone manufacturers continue to come out with new "upgraded" devices is so they can run more background applications on the phone which are intended to process all your activities and spy on you MORE easily. By adding so much processing power to the device they are making it so that this work load no longer needs to come from their own “cloud” services… saving them money. In addition to creating the demand outlined above when you buy a brand new device, you are also now paying THEM for the privileged to spy on you cheaper than they were before.

They sell you the "sizzle" of an upgraded camera or digital personal assistant while they quietly leverage the device to further monetize you and reduce their overhead.

Ironically, yes, Google Pixel devices are among the most secure and private phones available. The Google Pixel, with the open source operating system GrapheneOS, provides optimum security and privacy.

There are a few open source mobile operating systems such as LineageOS and CalyxOS, however, through our testing we have found GrapheneOS to be the most secure mobile operating system available. Unfortunately, it works specifically and only on Pixel devices at this time. Installation of GrapheneOS on other devices is experimental at best and will likely provide only limited functionality.

Google Hardware?

Thinking that Pixel phones use "Google Hardware" is also not entirely accurate. It’s like saying "Dell hardware" or "HP hardware". Dell and HP may be involved in the process of telling the manufactures what specific components they need and why they need them, but it's not the HP, Dell or Google engineers actually designing and manufacturing the motherboards and components themselves. These components are all commodity with very little variation and choice.

The Google Tensor chip in the Pixel 6, 7 and 8 devices (not in the Pixel 5 or prior models) follows the same logic. Did Google build this whole chip in house? No. They participated in the process of the design to ensure the chip was optimized for the device... but they didn't design/build and write all the logic for the device. Nor were they responsible for manufacturing the devices. To do so requires a technical skill set that currently resides within the chip manufacturers.

In theory, we could design our own phone and chip set as well... but it would require us making a substantial volume commitment to one of the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers… aka someone who manufactures and assembles devices) about what we want the look/feel/specs of the device to be. By doing so, we would also only be contributing to the demand for more slave labor to mine more materials to create brand new devices… which we feel are entirely unnecessary.

But why the Google Pixel phone?

The open source Android operating system is to mobile devices what Linux is to open source operating systems on laptops and desktops. Android is an open source framework. Google takes this open source framework (like a blueprint for a building) and then adds to it all their applications and spyware to make it a CLOSED SOURCE Google Android operating system… or what most people know today as “Droid”. Nearly all mobile operating systems outside the iPhone leverage the open source Android operating system to this extent.

The Pixel phone is specifically designed to be optimized to work with the open source operating system Android. When designing the phone, Google was very specific with the manufacturer as to what hardware they wanted to ensure the phone was as fast and compatible as possible with the Android operating system… which their Google Android operating system is based off of. Samsung, LG and all other phones on the market do not have the specific functionality that the Pixel device has, which in large part is what allows the open source GrapheneOS operating system that we install on our “Ghost Phones” to be as secure and private as it is.

For more details on exactly what functionality I am referring to above, I recommend digging through the documentation found on the site HERE.

The “… but Carriers can always track you” Argument

Yes, they can and do constantly monitor location data on each device. This is a byproduct of the technology itself and how voice, text and data services work on the phones.

I discuss this topic at length during our Digital Privacy Training Bootcamps, with a focus on how you can mitigate both the information being gathered from the carriers and how useful the information is when it is collected. The simple reality is that if your name and contact information are associated with the phone number you are using with one of the major 3 carriers in the US (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile), or one of their wholly owned subsidiaries, you have of course made it very easy for them to know where your specific device is located at any given time. If you are using their voice and text messaging services without encryption (and/or using Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon operating systems) you’ve also made it even easier for them to collect and make sense of the information you’re sharing using these services.

Logically, this should make perfect sense because they control your phone number and deliver the services. Despite this, what one CAN do to help mitigate the information collected and the usefulness of the data collected is:

  • Use a MVNO (reseller) that isn’t owned by one of the major carriers. This adds a layer of bureaucracy between you and the Big 3 carriers because MVNOs do not NEED to provide the carriers the contact information or name of that is attached to the phone number being used on their network.
  • Use an operating system on your device that isn’t owned/controlled by Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon (…because any encrypted applications you may leverage on the device are rendered useless if they control your operating system and can see what you see or hear what you hear on the device!)
  • Purchase a data only plan from a MVNO and get a phone number through, or any related service. This will limit your ability to make calls or send messages when your data connection is out of reach, or when there is no wifi network available, but this is a solid option to prevent the carriers from tracking your calls and messages.
  • Keep your “confidential” conversations through encrypted messaging services and only with individuals you know are also using non-Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon operating systems.
  • Get a new phone # and pre-pay for services with a MVNO that does not require you provide them with any identification. T-Mobile and many T-Mobile resellers allows you to do this, for example. Our experience, however, has been that you must visit one of the local stores in person to purchase the plan and pay for services. You can then either continue to pay at the store in cash or over the phone using a pre-paid debit card.

All of the methods above can be leveraged to make it harder for the carriers, or anyone trying to leverage the information gathered from the carriers, to identify YOU specifically to any given phone number of device you may be using.

Is this a PERFECT method of preventing nefarious individuals or organizations from tracking and finding you? Of course not. As mentioned above, with enough means and motive someone desperate enough to spend the time and money will likely be able to do so if you are transacting online. Your goal is to make the burden to do so high enough that you are simply “not worth it” for them to go through the lengths to track you and covertly access your communications.

The “… but the hardware itself can track and spy on you” Argument

It is definitely the case that some hardware manufacturers, such as Intel and Nvidia (which are in many laptop and desktop computers), provide "backdoor" access to their chips for our intelligence agencies. This is a byproduct of the "for national security reasons" argument that Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon also use when they provide the same access to these agencies. We know that hardware from China, such as Hauwai, most definitely provides a feed of all activity on the devices back to the CCP. We know that China has also secretly tried to embed components on motherboards to feed data back to the CCP. Same goes for hardware/software developed in Israel, Russia or nearly every other country on the planet. “For national security reasons” makes logical sense in all these cases… from their own perspective.

Hence, how do we KNOW that the hardware in the Pixel devices or laptops we use do not and are not sending information back to Google, the CCP or any of our intelligence agencies? We unfortunately can NOT say that this is 100% NOT happening. It very well might be!

We CAN SAY that through our continued testing and research, as well as that of the extended community of liberty minded geeks around the world, we have not found the Pixel devices we use, after stripping it of the Google Android operating system and installing GrapheneOS, as well as our list of vetted applications, to be making unwanted "calls" to Google or other entities without the approval and knowledge of the user. This is also the case for the Pixel devices using the Google Tensor chip (Pixel 6, 7 and 8), which we were initially concerned about when Tensor was released and why we did not offer the Pixel 6 or 7 devices until we felt we had done enough testing and research to confirm nothing nefarious was going on.

Without going into the technical details, it is also important to note that the information collected and functionality enabled through hardware level back door access is extremely limited. Without accessing the operating system, very little useful data can be compiled. That which might be compiled through this method is not even a fraction of a % which is currently being compiled by BigTech through their control of your operating system!

In Conclusion…

To be clear, we do NOT claim our Ghost Devices will prevent extremely sophisticated hackers and intelligence agencies from tracking you. You could also, as a user of the device, give complete access to Facebook, for example, by downloading their app and giving the app permissions to everything of relevance on your device. Point being, YOU provided the app access knowingly and willingly and you had a choice in the matter. The device did what you told it to do vs. the device doing what it wants to do without your knowledge or consent.

Also worth noting is that the list above is far from conclusive. I did not dive into the reality that the vast majority of viruses and related security hazards online are designed to run programs that simply can not operate in GrapheneOS or Linux based environments. I did not dive into the nature of open source and how this allows users to verify if there is or is not nefarious code hiding in their device. These both, however, add even more layers of privacy and security that simply do not exist within BigTech operating systems.

Our devices are designed to provide a baseline level of privacy and security that makes you and your device a far harder target. Most importantly it pulls you out of nearly all the data harvesting mechanisms Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon use.

We believe our devices are a HUGE step in the right direction and far better than simply throwing up our hands and saying, “Screw it! I’m not going to do anything because there’s still a chance they’ll be able to spy on me no matter what I do!”

Much like the realm of physical security, I can be a master martial artist with advanced weapons training and hiding in a bunker with armed guards outside… but if someone with enough means and motive needs to find and eliminate me they can and likely will. Does this mean that I shouldn’t become aware of my situation, learn some basic self defense and try not to make my person, home and family an easy target when out in public? Of course not! I want to make it exponentially more difficult and costly for anyone trying to spy on me or do me harm to do so through the precautions I have taken, which will hopefully deter the vast majority of people who may want to find and eliminate me from undertaking the effort.

With this in mind, we do know for a fact that the cost and coordination required to try and spy on, and gain access to, one's communications who are smart about using open source systems, encrypted communications and secure online search tools (VPN, browser, etc.) is exponentially more difficult than those who live in the iCloud and Google universe. The "good guys" we know who formerly worked as black hat hackers or with various intelligence agencies have confirmed that the bureaucracy involved to authorize a complex communications "hack" on an individual is extensive and the cost to do so is over $1M per authorization.

As such, our primary objective is to provide you with a few tools and some training to prevent you from freely and willingly giving all your data and location information to BigTech, and byproxy, hackers and our own government agencies. We are empowering you to learn about and regain control over some of the basic decisions about who and what should have access to your data so you don’t continue to exist as a sitting duck operating entirely within the control of the very organizations we despise.

Hackers, like most criminals, focus on easy targets.

Don’t be an easy target.

Hopefully this article was helpful. If you’d like to add any insights to my post here, or you feel I am missing something major, please do not hesitate to contact us at!