Android Still Gathers Personal Data And Sends It To The Mothership
Every Flavour Except LineageOS And /e/OS
Android phone vendors like Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Realme have been in the news several times over the years as researchers published their findings about the amount of data that the handsets send back to Google and the actual manufacturers regardless of whether you opted out of that or not. From the findings of Trinity and Edinburgh universities the companies have not stopped this practice after being called out, if anything they’ve doubled down.
It was well established that Google and the manufactures capture IMEI, serial numbers and WiFi information to track the physical locations of phones. In some cases, such as when you lose a phone this can be rather handy, though the inability to opt out of tracking certainly upsets some people. What these researchers found that was far more concerning was that resettable identifiers are also collected; which means that even if you do reset advertising or other features, linking it back to your original identifier is trivial as the IMEI is still the same.
There were other concerning examples, such as Huawei transmitting the actual app screens a user had opened back, or the intricate dance of crosslinked data. The Register discussed how Samsung’s system apps rely on Google Analytics and Microsoft’s OneDrive relies on Google’s push service, which means that personal identifiers are shared across multiple vendors without any indication of that to the user.
LineageOS, as long as you avoid installing Google apps from anywhere but open source projects like microG and F-Droid does not exhibit this behaviour, nor does /e/OS, which undermines various companies arguments that this tracking is required in order for your phone to function properly. Something to keep in mind the next time you pick up your mobile.
Google Android devices transmit telemetry data while idle, even when users have opted out, according to study conducted earlier this year by Trinity College Dublin computer scientist Douglas Leith.