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Google Collects 20 Times More Telemetry From Android Devices Than Apple From iOS

Published by Slashdot on Wed, 31 Mar 2021


An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Record by Recorded Future: Academic research published last week looked at the telemetry traffic sent by modern iOS and Android devices back to Apple and Google servers and found that Google collects around 20 times more telemetry data from Android devices than Apple from iOS. The research, conducted by Professor Douglas J. Leith from Trinity College at the University of Dublin, analyzed traffic originating from iOS and Android devices heading to Apple and Google servers at various stages of a phone's operation... [...] The study unearthed some uncomfortable results. For starters, Prof. Leith said that "both iOS and Google Android transmit telemetry, despite the user explicitly opting out of this [option]." Furthermore, "this data is sent even when a user is not logged in (indeed even if they have never logged in)," the researcher said. But while the Irish researcher found that Apple tends to collect more information data types from an iOS device, it was Google that collected "a notably larger volume of handset data. During the first 10 minutes of startup the Pixel handset sends around 1MB of data is sent to Google compared with the iPhone sending around 42KB of data to Apple," Prof. Leith said. "When the handsets are sitting idle the Pixel sends roughly 1MB of data to Google every 12 hours compared with the iPhone sending 52KB to Apple i.e., Google collects around 20 times more handset data than Apple." In response to the findings, a Google spokesperson said: "This research outlines how smartphones work. Modern cars regularly send basic data about vehicle components, their safety status and service schedules to car manufacturers, and mobile phones work in very similar ways. This report details those communications, which help ensure that iOS or Android software is up to date, services are working as intended, and that the phone is secure and running efficiently." The Android maker also disputed the paper's methodology, which they claim under-counted iOS' telemetry volume by excluding certain types of traffic, which Google believes resulted in skewed results that found Android devices collecting 20 times more data than iOS. Apple echoed its rival's response. "The report conflates a number of items in relation to different services and misunderstands how personal location data is protected," an Apple spokesperson told The Record. "Apple is not collecting data that can be associated with individuals without a user's knowledge or consent." Additional information about the findings can be found here (PDF).Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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