Study finds Android shares 20x more data with Google than iOS does with Apple

Posted:
in iOS edited March 30
A study conducted by a professor of computer science at Trinity College Dublin found that a typical Android handset collects some 20 times more data about its user than a comparable iPhone.

iPhone 12 Pro Max


According to researcher Doug Leith, who also serves as Trinity College's chair of computer systems, both iOS and Android continuously collect and send so-called telemetry data back to Apple and Google, respectively, reports ArsTechnica. This information ranges from inserting a SIM card into a smartphone to interacting with hardware and apps.

Data collection routines might run when a user is not logged, has opted out of data collection in privacy settings and when the handset sits idle. Leith found iOS shares information relating to IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, phone number, device IDs including UDID and ad ID, location, telemetry, cookies, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses. Android sends similar data, adding device Wi-Fi MAC address but not tapping a handset's location, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses.

What stands out is the amount of information collected, Leith says. According to his research, Android sends about 1MB of data to Google on startup, while iOS sends Apple roughly 42KB. When a handset is idle, Android sends another 1MB every 12 hours, which compares to about 52KB from iOS. In the U.S., Google is estimated to harvest 1.3TB of data from its users every 12 hours, while Apple is sent 5.8GB over the same period.

Leith measured data collected on first startup following a factory reset, when a SIM was inserted or removed when a handset was idle, when the settings screen was viewed, when location was enabled or disabled and when the user logged in to the preinstalled app store, the report said.

A Google Pixel 2 running Android 10 was used to measure Android data collection. An unknown iPhone model running iOS 13.6.1 was jailbroken to monitor network connections for the same purpose.

Google claims Leith's methodology is flawed, adding that data collection is a core function of any connected device. Speaking on background, a spokesperson challenged the experiment's validity, noting it failed to capture data like UDP/QUIC traffic.

We identified flaws in the researcher's methodology for measuring data volume and disagree with the paper's claims that an Android device shares 20 times more data than an iPhone. According to our research, these findings are off by an order of magnitude, and we shared our methodology concerns with the researcher before publication.

This research largely 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.

Leith warns that data collection practices are inherently dangerous, no matter the amount of information being passed back home.

"Currently there are few, if any, realistic options for preventing this data sharing," Leith wrote.
patchythepirateudance4ever
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    j2fusionj2fusion Posts: 112member
    And this is a surprise why and did you really think Google wouldn’t try to debunk it because hey, your location, oops I mean your phone’s location  is telemetry data...
    edited March 30 tmaylongpathwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    j2fusion said:
    And this is a surprise why and did you really think Google wouldn’t try to debunk it because hey, your location, oops I mean your phone’s location  is telemetry data...
    Weirdly, that's the one thing that the researcher claims Android does not collect while Apple does. 
    "Leith found iOS shares information relating to IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, phone number, device IDs including UDID and ad ID, location, telemetry, cookies, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses.
    Android sends similar data, adding device Wi-Fi MAC address but not tapping a handset's location, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses."


    edited March 30 superkloton
  • Reply 3 of 21
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,635member
    Of course. For Google, Data is currency, they don't charge in dollars, they charge in megabytes.
    lolliverviclauyycwilliamlondonpatchythepirateudance4everwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    It should be zero.  But hey, Tim Cook needs a new alarm to wake up at 3:47
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    It took some digging (I didn't see it anywhere in the AI article or the ArsTechnica source) but the link to the study itself is:
    https://www.scss.tcd.ie/doug.leith/apple_google.pdf
    longpathfotoformatfred1superklotonapplguyviclauyycudance4ever
  • Reply 6 of 21
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,825member
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    longpathfred1lolliverDogpersonviclauyycjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,614member
    Captain Obvious has entered the chat...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 21
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,365member
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    It's only flawed in two senses:

    1. It would be good to do a study of not just the OS information that phones home, but also the entirety of the services run by that OS. I believe the disparity between Android and iOS would grow considerably if you took all that into account.

    2. This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app, and thus not counted in this study. It should go without saying that of course your carrier gets, stores, and sells your location data far more than even Google. I would hop Mr. Leith would consider doing another study that looks at that aspect of device "phoning home" and discover how that compares.

    The bottom line here is that everything Apple collects is enumerated and explained clearly in their privacy policy, whereas Google doesn't even know what the word "privacy" means. Every single Google service is built around the core of needing to collect further data from its users, because that is literally their business model. Apple follows a policy of collecting as little as possible to make a service work, holding on to it for as short a time as possible, and explaining what they do and why.
    longpathlolliverviclauyycwilliamlondonj2fusionjony0udance4everwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    jony0
  • Reply 10 of 21
    chasm said:

    "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app, and thus not counted in this study.
    "Find my (device)" is a built in setting on both platforms and hence works the same on both Android and iOS. The accompanying apps are not installed by default (it used to on iOS but not anymore since iOS 11 or somewhere around that time iirc) and not necessary either. Instead, you can use icloud.com and your Google account respectively to find your device.
    Both platforms ask if you want to use this feature when setting up a new device so you have to actively subscribe to this feature in order to use it.

    Why the study claims that Google is not gathering location data is beyond me though, many of Google's features (e.g. traffic predictions and peak times for places) are based on location data (and it works so well because every Android user is involuntarily contributing to it).
    edited March 31 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 975member
    As much as I want this study to be true, 1.3 T of data every 12 hours just doesn’t seem to be a believable number, that amount of data would eat up most consumers data plans in a noticeable way.  Google maybe right that the study is off by an order of magnitude making it just TWICE as much as iOS.

    The little bit of extra wifi and location data that Apple collects is probably related to “Find My” and walled garden issues, i.e. sharing wifi passwords across Apple devices for a seamless consumer experience.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 912member
    “Google claims Leith's methodology is flawed...”

    We actually collect 50x as much data.  Bwahahahaha!!!!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    techconctechconc Posts: 149member
    gatorguy said:
    Weirdly, that's the one thing that the researcher claims Android does not collect while Apple does. 
    "Leith found iOS shares information relating to IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, phone number, device IDs including UDID and ad ID, location, telemetry, cookies, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses.
    Android sends similar data, adding device Wi-Fi MAC address but not tapping a handset's location, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses."

    I have news for you.  If Google has "local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac address, they have your location as well.  Much of the information they need can be derived from other sources of information.
    Rayz2016udance4everwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 21
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 912member
    badmonk said:
    As much as I want this study to be true, 1.3 T of data every 12 hours just doesn’t seem to be a believable number, that amount of data would eat up most consumers data plans in a noticeable way.
    That’s for the entire user base, I believe. 
    udance4everwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,310member
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    Working overtime I see ;) Is there a large light circle on the clouds over your home with a G on it when articles like this come out?
    edited March 31 watto_cobraJanNL
  • Reply 16 of 21
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,771member
    MacPro said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    Working overtime I see ;) Is there a large light circle on the clouds over your home with a G on it when articles like this come out?
    🤣

    There’s a whole comic book in there. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    techconc said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weirdly, that's the one thing that the researcher claims Android does not collect while Apple does. 
    "Leith found iOS shares information relating to IMEI, hardware serial number, SIM serial number, phone number, device IDs including UDID and ad ID, location, telemetry, cookies, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses.
    Android sends similar data, adding device Wi-Fi MAC address but not tapping a handset's location, local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac addresses."

    I have news for you.  If Google has "local IP address and nearby Wi-Fi Mac address, they have your location as well.  Much of the information they need can be derived from other sources of information.
    It's not news to me. Perhaps the researcher's conclusions are flawed after all? 
  • Reply 18 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    MacPro said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    Working overtime I see ;) Is there a large light circle on the clouds over your home with a G on it when articles like this come out?
    No need for a light, even if you ignore the headline addressing "Android". 

    The too frequent ignorance shown about Android and Google in general, and the plethora of incorrect claims made by otherwise smart guys here who repeat misinformation (or simply make it up) without checking the veracity, is screaming for accuracy. :) 

    You're a smart guy, and I'm sure if you're going to make a factual claim about something in the photography field you're going to make relatively certain it's accurate. On top of that if someone with more knowledge of that particular thing were to point out you being mistaken and politely correcting it would you be insulted or appreciative? I would hope the latter since the former tends to come from small minds. Why would you want anything less with regard to your other interests? 

    You're welcome, no thanks expected
    edited March 31 jony0
  • Reply 19 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,310member
    gatorguy said:
    MacPro said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    Working overtime I see ;) Is there a large light circle on the clouds over your home with a G on it when articles like this come out?
    No need for a light. With so much ignorance of Android and Google, and the plethora of incorrect claims otherwise smart guys here repeat, there's screams for more accurate info. 
    I pull your leg as always, hopefully gently.  However, even if accepting you are entirely correct on this particular point, defending Android and Google against sharing data is like trying to empty the Atlantic with a teacup.
  • Reply 20 of 21
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,900member
    MacPro said:
    gatorguy said:
    MacPro said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    cpsro said:
    I believe Google that the study is flawed… a gross underestimate.
    . This is probably why Android is seen to not send out the device's location, whereas Apple does get that info: "Find My" is part and parcel of iOS, whereas with Android it's probably just an app
    "Find My Android" is not an app. You access it in your Google account. 
    Working overtime I see ;) Is there a large light circle on the clouds over your home with a G on it when articles like this come out?
    No need for a light. With so much ignorance of Android and Google, and the plethora of incorrect claims otherwise smart guys here repeat, there's screams for more accurate info. 
    I pull your leg as always, hopefully gently.  However, even if accepting you are entirely correct on this particular point, defending Android and Google against sharing data is like trying to empty the Atlantic with a teacup.
    You are 100% correct. It's good I wasn't defending it then. 
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