Google will no longer send signal data from Android phones to avoid privacy violations

Google is one of the largest platforms that provide a huge variety of services to its users. Alphabet-owned Google has been providing a service to wireless carriers to help them detect the weak spots in its network coverage. But this type of access to data can be a great threat to user’s privacy and this ban on sending Android cell signal data due to privacy concerns was expected a long time ago. The major feature any users wants is the privacy protection and Google’s increased focus to secure the privacy of its users led to this decision to quietly stop providing this service for carriers.

Why was Google so concerned about privacy violation in this feature?

According to the Reuters, Google completely shut down its Mobile Network Insights feature. This feature was enabled to help provider maps of cellular signal strength and to increase the data collection from Android phones.

The data collected from Android phones were then anonymized and was required in sharing location, usage and diagnostic info but during all that process Google was always concerned regarding the privacy of its users and that it might become an attraction for hackers. The withdrawal of this service has a very negative impact on wireless carriers because they used this data as a part of their decision-making process regarding where to extend their coverage.

The service of Mobile Network Insights was launched in March 2017 and was very helpful for providers. This service of Google was indeed helpful for providers due to availability of so many Android phones in the market. Any telecom firm can get real-world usage stats from a phone’s software easily. Even though the sharing of data was anonymous but Google was still afraid to draw more attention due to its data sharing process that may become an issue of data privacy.

Response from Google

According to the Reuters, Google confirmed that it will no longer provide Insights service to its providers but only stated it as a change due to product priorities. There’s no other reason mentioned regarding the shutdown of this service.


Bottom Line

Facebook also offers a similar service named Actionable Insights that also provides anonymous demographics to providers. According to Facebook, it will keep on providing this service because it is specifically built to safeguard privacy. Google also took a very strong action towards data privacy by completely shutting off its Insights service to providers. Google is already facing so many issues regarding allegations of GDPR violations and antitrust investigations. Maybe Google backing off from this service is just a way to not be on the radar again due to its data gathering practices.


Photo: Android / Facebook

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