Apple and Google are Tracking Mobile Telemetry data even with opt-out option
Research exposing mobile device-tracking by Apple and Google has recently made it to the news headlines. It explains how, even though both companies provide users with the option to opt-out of exchanging telemetry data, such data is shared anyway.
The recently released academic report has measured the amount of data that Android and iOS send and have found that Google’s Android Pixel sends 20 times more data about its users in comparison to the data that Apple collects from its iOS users.
As per the information published in the report, Google Pixel sends nearly 1MB of data to Google servers just in the first ten minutes of startup. iPhone, in comparison, sends about 42KB of data to Apple for the same amount of time. When idle, the Pixel sends nearly 1MB of data to Google every 12 hours while the iPhone transmitting only 52KB to Apple.
The study also notes that, on average, both operating systems connect to their back-end servers every 4.5 minutes, regardless of they are in operation or not.
Presently, there are few, if any, practical solutions for avoiding this data exchange, according to the study, because as soon as a SIM card is inserted, both iOS and Google Android submit information to Apple and Google.
The study is based on data gathered by OS-level phone components and features, such as Apple’s Bluetooth UniqueChipID, Secure Element ID, and the transmission of the devices’ Wi-Fi MAC addresses.
Though informal, another highlight of the report points out the ability of pre-installed applications and utilities, unique to the handset manufacturers, to connect to the network, despite never been opened or used by the user.
Apple has not commented on the report so far, despite being reached out several times.
Google, on the other hand, has released a statement in which they claim they have found flaws in the researcher’s methodology and disagree with the paper’s claims that an Android device shares 20 times more data than an iPhone.
Risks of Telemetry Data Sharing
The privacy risks of telemetry data transmitting, according to the report, are significant. Google and Apple can not only use such data to identify users and monitor their purchases but also exploit the trust of users and keep track of their movements. Location data, for instance, can be used to reveal the anonymity of a user.
That being said, the study does point out the importance of general user data transmission to the device-maker as this allows for working on and releasing essential device and security updates for particular models. Collecting user data becomes troublesome when it is linked to a specific user, the report explains.
How to protect your privacy?
The author of the report describes a series of ways in which a person can restrict the sharing of mobile data. You can read more about them at the following link.