A group of British scientists conducted a study recently regarding Android data collection. The study targeted brands like Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, and Huawei. All of the smartphones are using the Android operating system.
The research conclusion did not have a positive note. British scientists discovered that none of the mobile phones offer decent data protection on their Google Android OS. Lineage OS, a fork from Android is also on the targetted list.
Apple has an ongoing history of publicly denying authorities to bypass their iOS security. The company built a decent reputation based on their non-cooperation with government agencies. One of the reasons behind this is that Apple’s main profits come from hardware sales, and not from their operating system. This makes iPhone users a little bit more protected.
Android, on the other hand, is a completely different deal. Information is split between the operating system and Google Play Store apps. The third-party applications usually request users to provide access to their devices. In most cases, the main reason is to provide a better service to the user, while promising they will not share the collected data.
The collected data is distributed to Google and third-party apps that are installed on your smartphone. This includes location data, contacts, GPS tracking history, Android’s unique identifier, even Google Chrome’s browsing history in some cases. Google wins the trophy for most collected data among all of the producers.
One example of how hard it is not to give away data is resetting Android’s unique identifier code. When you try to get a new Android ID, the operating system automatically sends the new one to Google. This situation makes it impossible to hide your electronic fingerprint.
Things get worse with other manufactures. Huawei, Xiaomi, and Realme all use weak encryption systems. This gives information data access to the manufacturer’s “unofficial partners”, which sometimes can include members of the Communist Party in China.
The most vulnerable data exposed include SIM Car number, IMEI identifier, GPS tracking location history, IP address, or SSID network identifiers to just name a few.
Google did make a statement when confronted with this new research by British scientists. To make it short, the company claimed that such data collection is normal and expected. “It’s just how mobile phones work”. According to Google, even privacy policies from the App Store claim that such data is essential for basic services like push notifications, and software versions.
Lineage OS has a different twist to the story. Confronted with the British report, they explained it differently. Your personal information is safe until you start installing opengapps. The initial OS firmware comes without that component installed. Once you move away from the initial factory settings, things go South.
Advertisers profit the most from the collected data from your devices. By measuring how you use your smartphone, they can use modern tech to predict what products you might be interested in buying.
Privacy settings help, but it’s not a fail-safe mechanism. You get to choose the amount of data you can send back to Google, but critical information will still be transmitted. As most smartphones come with pre-installed software, it’s really hard to go through all of their settings and see what you should turn off and on.
The volume of data collected per day is still unknown and hard to identify. However, it’s believed that web browsing history plays one of the major players sent back to Google servers. Data analysis can help third-party companies predict your buying habits, your download tendencies, what games you like, etc. While this might not sound harmful to you, if you run a business you might want to prevent such practices.