Android phones and iPhones share data with their respective companies on average every 4 and a half minutes, with data sent back even when inactive in a pocket or purse, according to a new academic study.
The Trinity College Dublin survey has raised new concerns about smartphone privacy, and the research claimed that there was little difference between Apple and Google when it came to collecting certain data.
The study, published by Prof Doug Leith at Trinity’s Connect Center, claimed that iPhones did not provide greater privacy than Google devices.
However, the study noted that Google phones collected “a significantly larger volume of handset data than Apple”
Among the data potentially sent back by the handsets was the insertion of a SIM and handset details such as the hardware serial number, IMEI, Wifi MAC address and the phone number.
“I think most people accept that Apple and Google need to collect data from our phones in order to offer services like iCloud or Google Drive. But when we only use our phones as phones – to make and receive calls and nothing more – it is much harder to see why Apple and Google need to collect data, says Prof Leith.
“In this study, however, we find that Apple and Google gather a wealth of information in that very situation. It seems excessive, and it is difficult to see why it is necessary. ”
Prof Leith said it was disappointing to see so much data collected by Apple, especially since the company had previously talked a lot about users’ privacy.
He said the devices not only collected data on handset activity but also on nearby phones; When a user connects to a WiFi network, the WiFi MAC addresses of other devices on the network are sent to Apple.
The WiFi MAC address identifies a device in a WiFi network, and identifies, for example, unique home routers, cafe hotspots, or office networks. This means that Apple can potentially track which people you are near, as well as when and where. It’s very worrying. ”
He said users can not opt out of data collection.
The research highlighted some major concerns about the collection of such data, and noted that device data can be linked to other data sources, including browsing and shopping purchases.
“This study outlines how smartphones work,” a Google spokesman said. “Modern cars regularly send basic data about vehicle components, their safety status and service plans to car manufacturers, and mobile phones work in very similar ways. This report describes the communication, which helps to ensure that iOS or Android software is up to date, the services work as intended, and that the phone is secure and running efficiently. ”
Apple has not yet commented on the study.