What personal data do Android mobile manufacturers collect and share?

Although from its base the operating system is the same, in Android phones there is the particularity that the user experience varies depending on the customization layer applied by each manufacturer.

It’s not all about different interfaces, special functions, and unique applications. In certain cases, the interference of the manufacturers also reaches the privacy of their users, collecting data that is even shared with third parties, as accused by a recent report.

Study analyzed the exchange of data from Android mobiles with their respective manufacturers

a study Developed jointly by researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh, it reviewed the data managed and shipped by Android variants developed by six manufacturers: Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, Realme, LineageOS and /and/OS, a variant of Android that dispenses with any Google presence, developed by the founder of the Linux distribution Mandrake.

Among the observations pointed out in the study, it is pointed out that all the mobile manufacturers subjected to the analysis compile a list of all the applications installed on a phone, with the sole exception of / e / OS. This practice compromises the privacy of users, as it can reveal personal interests such as their sexual orientation, political tendency or religious thinking, among other indicators.

Again with the exception of / e / OS, which under the observations of this study was found not to transmit personal data, the study reported that Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme and Google track long-lasting device identifiers, such as serial number hardware, along with other advertising identifiers that can be reset by the user. This implies that even though someone can reset an advertising identifier on their mobile, they can once again be identified as part of the same interest group, even erroneously, if the team changes ownership.

A specific detail of Xiaomi mobiles indicates that the manufacturer collects details of all the application screens seen by a user, such as their usage time and on what occasions it is used. If some data is balanced, with these indicators it is possible to know when and for how long telephone calls are made. The tracking mechanism is under a technology similar to those of the cookies used on the web and the data, presumably, would be sent outside Europe to Singapore.

With respect to Huawei, it is noted that the integrated keyboard with its EMUI customization layer, Switkey —of Microsoft—, sends details of the use of the application to its manufacturer (that is, a third party from Huawei), which distinguishes its use in messaging , search bars or the contact book.

Another not minor aspect is that the systems that integrate software from Google, Microsoft, Linkedin and Facebook in a pre-installed way, collect data silently, without giving users the option of not participating in these measurements.

The importance of analyzing the privacy of our mobiles

On the need to know this information, Professor Doug Leith, chair of informatics systems in the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of this study, commented his opinion with his house of studies. “I think we have completely lost the massive and continuous collection of data by our phones, for which there is no opt-out. We have focused too much on web cookies and misbehaving apps. I hope our work acts as a wake-up call for the public, politicians and regulators. Meaningful action is urgently needed to give people real control over the data coming out of their phones », he pointed.

Spinning finer, the study’s other author, Dr Paul Patras, associate professor at the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Although we have seen personal information protection laws adopted in several countries in recent years, including the EU member states, Canada and South Korea, user data collection practices remain widespread. Most worryingly, such practices take place “under the hood” on smartphones without the knowledge of users and without an accessible means of disabling such functionality. However, privacy-conscious Android variants are gaining traction and our findings should incentivize market leading vendors to follow suit ».

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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