Google collects more data from Android users than Apple collects from iOS users, a new research report says. Researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland compared the data a Pixel phone shared with Google with what iPhones share with Apple and found that Google collects 20 times more data on phones than Apple. Research also found that even when ‘configured minimally’, the Pixel and iPhone models shared data quite frequently, on average. According to a report, Google does not agree with the methodology behind the search.
Mobile phone privacy research by Douglas J. Leith and his team at Trinity College Dublin pits a Google-made Pixel phone against an Apple-made iPhone to see which manufacturer collects the most user data. He found that the Pixel and iPhone models shared data with their respective manufacturers every 4.5 minutes on average. Data collected includes IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM and IMSI serial number, handset phone number and more, as well as telemetry.
When a user inserts a SIM card into one of these smartphones, Google and Apple receive details. It has been found that iOS sends the MAC addresses of nearby devices to Apple along with their GPS location. IOS users cannot refuse this and there don’t seem to be any realistic options to prevent this. When not connected, while the two phones send the IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, and phone number to the manufacturers, Google collects the Android ID, the Resettable Device ID or Ad ID that is used for metrics and announcements (RDID / Ad ID) and DroidGuard key used for device attestation. In comparison, Apple only collects the UDID and Ad ID.
Apple was found to collect user’s location even when not logged in, as well as local IP address, unlike Google. Google also collected the Wi-Fi MAC address, unlike Apple. Both operating systems send telemetry data even when the user chooses to exit. Within 10 minutes of startup, Google collects approximately 1MB of data while Apple collects approximately 42KB. When idle, Google collects approximately 1MB of data every 12 hours while Apple collects approximately 52KB.
A report from Arstechnica, which first spotted the research, quotes a Google spokesperson as saying that Google does not agree with the methodology of this research.
“We have identified flaws in the researcher’s methodology for measuring data volume and we disagree with the paper’s claims that an Android device shares 20 times more data than an iPhone. According to our research, these results are of an order of magnitude, and we shared our methodological concerns with the researcher before publication. He goes on to say, “This research largely describes how smartphones work. Modern cars routinely send basic data about vehicle components, their safety condition, and maintenance schedules to car manufacturers, and cell phones operate in a very similar fashion. This report details these communications, which help ensure that iOS or Android software is up to date, services are working as expected, and the phone is secure and running efficiently. “
The report adds that, according to the representative, to say that an Android user can refuse to share telemetry data is “inaccurate”. Google considers this data essential for the Android device to function normally and telemetry data is not covered by Android usage and diagnostics.
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