Google Collects 20 Times More Data From Android Than Apple Collects From iOS, Study Shows
Google’s Android reportedly collects more user data than Apple’s iOS for iPhones, new research has found. According to iOS and Android researcher Douglas Leith from Trinity College in Ireland, Google’s mobile operating system collects about 20 times more data than its Apple counterpart. However, smartphones running on either of the operating systems collect crucial metadata such as location, phone number, and local network details even when devices are on standby or just out-of-the-box, the findings claim. The research adds that data is collected despite user opting out of settings to share personal information such as contact or location details with servers. It notes that a Pixel smartphone sends roughly 1MB of data to Google, whereas an iPhone transmits around 42KB of data to Apple within the first 10 minutes of the phone’s initiation process. When sitting idle, the Pixel device reportedly sends out roughly 1MB of data to Google every 12 hours, compared with the iPhone sending 52KB data to Apple for the same period.
The paper notes that the measurements were performed by using a Google Pixel 2 running Android 10 and an iPhone 8 running iOS 13.6.1. The iPhone was jailbroken using the Checm8 exploit. The Pixel had Google Play services enabled. It discovered that pre-installed apps or services also sent some amount of data when they are unused or unopened. In the case of iOS, data collected from Siri, Safari and iCloud are transmitted to Apple. On the other hand, Google Android sends information collected from YouTube, Google Chrome, Google Docs, Safetyhub, Google Messaging, Clock and even Google Searchbar.
In the study ‘Mobile Handset Privacy: Measuring The Data iOS and Android Send to Apple And Google,’ Leith states, “The collection of so much data by Apple and Google raises at least two major concerns. Firstly, this device data can be fairly readily linked to other data sources, e.g. once a user logs in (as they must to use the pre-installed app store) then this device data gets linked to their personal details (name, email, credit card etc) and so potentially to other devices owned the user, shopping purchases, web browsing history and so on. This is not a hypothetical concern since both Apple and Google operate payment services, supply popular web browsers and benefit commercially from advertising. Secondly, every time a handset connects with a back-end server it necessarily reveals the handset IP address, which is a rough proxy for location.”
Speaking over the findings, a Google spokesperson told ArsTechnica that the research is based on “faulty methods” for measuring the data that is collected by each operating system. The software giant also contended that data collection is a core function of any internet-connected device. Similarly, an Apple representative told the publication that the research gets “things wrong” as the company offers “privacy protections that prevent Apple from tracking user locations.” It adds that the tech giant informs iPhone users about the collection of location-related data.