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Google Play: Data collection is out of control

Google Play: Data collection is out of control
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Christian Boas

Almost 90 percent of the free apps on the Google Play Store share the data with the Google mother Alphabet. The collection and use of mobile apps is therefore already “out of control” advised researchers at the University of Oxford in the current study: “Third Party Tracking in the Mobile Ecosystem”.

Lack of awareness
According to the researchers, data collected particularly often can include details such as age, gender, location and information about other apps on the affected user’s smartphone.

“The data can then be used for a variety of purposes, including targeted advertising, credit scoring, and targeted political campaign messages,” says the Oxford Department of Computer Science report.

Many people are unaware of how data flows from smartphones to advertising groups and other intermediaries. In addition to the 88 percent of apps from the Google Play store that forward data to Alphabet, just under 43 percent of free Google apps share data with the social network Facebook, while significant percentages are also shared with Twitter, Verizon, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Following the publication of the study, Google states in a statement that it disapproves of the research methodology. “The study misunderstands common functional services, such as crash reports and analytics, and describes how apps share data to deliver those services,” the Google statement said. However, the researchers regard this argument as an excuse.

“It is impossible for the average user to understand how their data is being used – and ultimately to prevent it. Companies track people, then they use that data and target people in ways that most of us would find very intrusive. It’s no longer about the need to collect data to show relevant ads – it’s about maximizing profits at the expense of people’s fundamental rights, “said Frederick Kaltheuner of the human rights organization Privacy International.

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