HomeNewsYour Android Device Is Extracting Data Everyday Without Consent

Your Android Device Is Extracting Data Everyday Without Consent


Last Updated on 16/11/2020 by Hrithik V

Google is once again back in the news, but this time anti-trust battle isn’t what Google is in news for. One more of Google’s dirty little secret has been laid out in front of people through the lawsuit filed in a U.S. federal region court in San Jose on behalf of four plaintiffs based in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin contends that Google is using Android users’ restricted cellular data allowances without permission to transmit information about those individuals that are unrelated to their use of Google services. 

According to The Register, Google on Thursday was sued for allegedly stealing Android users’ cellular data allowances through unapproved, undisclosed transmissions to the web giant’s servers.

The complaint claims :

“Google designed and implemented its Android operating system and apps to extract and transmit large volumes of information between Plaintiffs’ cellular devices and Google using Plaintiffs’ cellular data allowances”

“Google’s misappropriation of Plaintiffs’ cellular data allowances through passive transfers occurs in the background, does not result from Plaintiffs’ direct engagement with Google’s apps and properties on their devices, and happens without Plaintiffs’ consent.”

It should be noted that people who want to use Android, have to accept four agreements to participate in the Google ecosystem:

  1. Google’s Terms of Service.
  2. Google’s Privacy Policy.
  3. Managed Google Play Agreement.
  4. Google Play Terms of Service.

But according to the filing, none of the four agreements discloses that Google can use users’ cellular data for background transfers. This was found out when tested on a Samsung Galaxy S7 running Android (a signed-in Google Account and on the default setting), which when left stationary with all apps closed, was found to transferred data to Google about 16 times per hour, or about 389 times a day.


Your Android Device Is Extracting Data Everyday Without Consent 1
Image Credits: The Times

In the lawsuit, any data sent through Wi-Fi isn’t an issue, nor is any data sent through the cellular connection in the absence of Wi-Fi, but when the user has chosen to use a network-connected application. What concerns the plaintiffs is the data sent to Google’s servers that aren’t the result of deliberate interaction with a mobile device.

An iPhone with Apple’s Safari browser open in the background transmits only about a tenth of that amount to Apple, according to the complaint. In fact, Vanderbilt University Professor Douglas C. Schmidt played out a comparable report in 2018 — except that the Chrome browser was open — and found that Android devices made 900 passive transfers in 24 hours.

Unlike Apple that controls its entire ecosystem and doesn’t really rely on ‘selling user data’ to advertisers, Google needs as many data from users as possible.

From clients online exercises, contacts, browsing habits, applications introduced and used, and some more. Google needs everything it can assemble from clients, to profile them.

This is also why the complaint charges that Google conducts these undisclosed data transfers for additional reinforcing its promoting business, by sending “tokens” to identify users for targeted advertising, and preload and targeted ads that produce income regardless of whether they’re never at any point shown.

Overall, this lawsuit wants to recover the fair market value of the co-opted cellular data and the reasonable value of the cellular data used by Google to extract and deliver information that benefited Google, dating back to whenever Google started this undisclosed practice.

Drashti is a free-spirited TheDigitalHacker contributor, who loves writing stories and listening to music. She loves learning and exploring new languages and cultures, and makes sure to click a picture of the same for her Memoir.
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