Idle Android Devices Send Data to Google Nearly 10 Times More Often Than iOS Devices do to Apple, Research Finds

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Idle Android devices typically send data ten times more often to Google than iOS devices do to Apple's servers, according to new research shared by trade association Digital Content Next.

    In a paper titled "Google Data Collection," Douglas C. Schmidt, a computer science professor at Vanderbilt University, arrives at some stark conclusions regarding how much Google is collecting about consumers who use the company's products, even when they aren't interacting with their smartphones and tablets.

    Among several findings, Schmidt's experiments found that an idle Android phone with Chrome web browser active in the background communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period. An equivalent experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari open but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device.


    In addition, he found that an idle Android phone running Chrome sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iPhone running Safari. Overall, an idle Android device was found to communicate with Google nearly 10 times more often than an Apple device communicates with Apple servers.

    As well as data transmission frequencies, Schmidt's research also turned up some of the ways that Google can potentially tie together anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of its users.

    For example, on an Android device, so-called "anonymous" advertising identifiers that collect activity data on apps and third-party web page visits can get associated with a user's real Google identity by the passing of device-level identification information to Google servers.

    The same goes for the supposedly user-anonymous DoubleClick cookie ID, which tracks a user's activity on third-party web pages. According to Schmidt's research, Google can associate the cookie to a user's Google account when a user accesses a Google app in the same browser that a third-party web page was accessed.

    The research follows a recent investigation conducted by the Associated Press which revealed that Google continues to track location data even after a consumer has turned off the setting in many of its apps, including Google Maps.


    In response to a query about location history tracking, Google said that it is clear about its location policies, yet the company continues to collect data through app features that come under "My Activity" even when its "Location History" setting is turned off. The practice has since led to a class action lawsuit against the company by a user arguing breach of privacy.

    Location information stored in "My Activity" is used for ad targeting purposes, which is still Google's primary business model. In contrast, Apple uses differential privacy to gather anonymous usage insights from devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs, allowing it to crowdsource data from a large number of users without compromising the privacy of any individual.

    Apple says the data it collects off-device is used to improve services like Siri suggestions, and to help identify problematic websites that use excessive power or too much memory in Safari, but the data is randomized before being sent from devices, so that its servers never see or receive raw data from users.

    When users set up their device, Apple explicitly asks users if they wish to provide usage information on an opt-in basis. If a user declines, no data is collected by Apple unless they choose to opt in at a later time.

    Apple executives have said several times that Apple customers are not the company's product, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has maintained that privacy is a fundamental human right. The company also has a dedicated privacy website that explains its approach to privacy, outlines tools available to customers to protect their privacy, and details government data requests.

    Article Link: Idle Android Devices Send Data to Google Nearly 10 Times More Often Than iOS Devices do to Apple, Research Finds
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    And when people scoff "well Android phones are cheaper", this is part of the reason. With Apple, you buy a product. With Google, you are the product.
  3. Piggie macrumors G3


    Feb 23, 2010
    Why would you have Chrome open in the background anyway, when you are not using your phone?
    Don't most just close running apps when they have finished doing something?
    I do always.
  4. stark93, Aug 22, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018

    stark93 macrumors member


    Sep 18, 2012
  5. Wanted797 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 28, 2011
  6. newyorksole macrumors 68040

    Apr 2, 2008
    New York.
    It’s kinda crazy what all of our devices do in the background and behind the scenes that we don’t see / know about.

    Not just from an information collecting standpoint, but it’s fascinating what goes on beneath it all.
  7. Dragonlord_66 macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2018
    i dont think that the reason anymore since andriod phones now a days are almost equal to iphone in termes of prices. i recently talked with some of my android friends and when i explained them that google is a ad company and collects your personal data they just had 1 reply "so what ? am i some important person ? who the **** cares about my info at google ?"
  8. rpmurray macrumors regular

    Feb 21, 2017
    Back End of Beyond
  9. Sasparilla macrumors 65816

    Jul 6, 2012
    All those users and their personal details/locations, the product, churned through like corn kernels through a harvester. Good ol' Google.
  10. Dragonlord_66 macrumors member


    Mar 6, 2018
    i dont (iphone x and macbook air) and i imagine most people do close but even if only 10% people that use android dont close apps we are talking people in millions
  11. prasand macrumors 6502


    Mar 24, 2015
    UES, New York
    No. Most are not that tech savvy.
  12. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Very true: some of my work colleagues mocked me for getting an “overpriced” iPhone X yet they paid nearly as much for a Google Pixel 2 with half the per core performance, no wireless charging, and data mining galore.
  13. Cryates macrumors 68020


    Nov 19, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    Folks, like it or not, you're being tracked wherever you go anyways in one way or another.
  14. Scottsoapbox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 10, 2014
    Data transmission frequency and amount are two different things yet author Tim uses them interchangeably. (Frequency is often even user selectable)

    Let's at least get mad at Google based on what they are actually doing and not a misreporting of it.
  15. Jsameds macrumors 68040

    Apr 22, 2008
    Yeah but there's a difference between being tracked by Apple and being tracked by Google.
  16. IGI2 macrumors 6502a


    May 6, 2015
    I've read a bit and I still don't know how do they differentiate "good" and "bad" communication?

    How do they know that the background activity of my phone and connections to Apple are not the good one? Updates for Find My iPhone, Updates for HomeKit to run scenes when you arrive/leave, updates to check for App Store updates at night, connections triggered by other members of the family in Find My Friends or in Messages. Maybe someone new was adding my number to his iMessage chat or contacts and Apple connected with my device to see if there is a response and it can show that other person that "I'm a blue bubble" and it's working. What about iCloud Photo Library, it's no secret that it's not just a RAW transfer of files, there are CRONs ( ), job schedulers to check whether there are some changes to the library, whether metadata is ok, whether new face was recognized on a different device and it needs to update them.

    I guess measuring traffic may get complicated. The fact that I'm connecting or uploading some files to Apple servers doesn't mean it's a privacy breach.

    To some extent this applies to Google, if someone has Google Photos backup turned on, location services and location sharing with friends, etc.
  17. Rogifan macrumors Core


    Nov 14, 2011
    In other words: it’s the users fault for not closing apps after using them?
  18. vicviper789 macrumors regular

    Jun 5, 2013
    I wish the researchers would tell us more specifically what type of data is being sent. Keystrokes? Cellphone tower pings? Automatic selfies? Diagnostics?
  19. bollman macrumors 6502

    Sep 25, 2001
    Lund, Sweden
    As previously stated: who cares?
    I'd like to be in on it while it lasts. I predict online advertising to be very sad market within a few years. Ad blocking and research showing that people actively avoids looking at ads will make it increasingly hard to make money off of users as a product.
  20. Cryates macrumors 68020


    Nov 19, 2013
    Chattanooga, TN
    You're being tracked by cell signal, or any wifi spots you connect to, your activity is tracked by IP address, you're tracked by your credit/debit card usage, there are cameras that take pictures of your tag, etc... I'm just saying, whatever people are afraid of by being're being tracked one way or another.

    I really don't care either...all they'll find about me is I live a boring life and love technology.
  21. BvizioN macrumors 601


    Mar 16, 2012
    Manchester, UK
    I never remove apps from multitasking tray. They should be there ready for me for when I need them.
  22. cmaier macrumors G5

    Jul 25, 2007
    No, most do not. And on iOS, there is no need to.
  23. Madmic23 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
  24. cmaier macrumors G5

    Jul 25, 2007
    Tech savvy people don’t fall for the old wives tale that it’s necessary or useful to kill apps from the multitasking tray.
  25. Cloudane macrumors 68000


    Aug 6, 2007
    Sweet Apple Acres
    It's bound to, as it's a phone OS created by Google and designed to keep in contact with Google (to a degree dependent on how much you agree to in the settings). I'd imagine an Apple phone conversely sends more data to Apple than an Android phone!
    But it does communicate more in general too, so it can give you a somewhat more useful "suggestion / PA / automation" kind of system powered by Google's cloud than iOS/Siri powered internally on the phone, at some expense of privacy of course. If you agree then it GPS tracks you when it detects physical activity so you can look at your route later, to give another data communicating example, wihtout having to remember to ask for it at the start.

    It's not necessarily some evil plot to abuse people - they throw things in your face all the time (to the point it gets quite annoying on the Google website) reminding you of your data choices and explaining the privacy implications so that you can make an informed decision as to what you're comfortable sharing.

    Though seemingly the press wants everyone to remain brainless and have things decided for them, which makes a "just hammer yes to everything and don't read anything" approach to setting up an Android handset pretty uncomfortable from a privacy perspective.

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