Google Collects Data From Google Dial And Messages Without Your Consent Or Ability To Opt Out…. WTF?

People have said to me that I am such an Apple Fanboy because I tend to gravitate towards Apple products. The reality is that while I don’t trust any company completely, I trust Apple more than Google. And this story is a clear reason why I feel that way:

According to a research paper, “What Data Do The Google Dialer and Messages Apps On Android Send to Google?” [PDF], by Trinity College Dublin computer science professor Douglas Leith, Google Messages (for text messaging) and Google Dialer (for phone calls) have been sending data about user communications to the Google Play Services Clearcut logger service and to Google’s Firebase Analytics service.

“The data sent by Google Messages includes a hash of the message text, allowing linking of sender and receiver in a message exchange,” the paper says. “The data sent by Google Dialer includes the call time and duration, again allowing linking of the two handsets engaged in a phone call. Phone numbers are also sent to Google.” The timing and duration of other user interactions with these apps has also been transmitted to Google. And Google offers no way to opt-out of this data collection.

So in short, Google is unsurprisingly harvesting user data. Something that they don’t exactly confirm. But they don’t exactly deny either:

Google confirmed to The Register on Monday that the paper’s representations about its interactions with Leith are accurate. “We welcome partnerships – and feedback – from academics and researchers, including those at Trinity College,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ve worked constructively with that team to address their comments, and will continue to do so.”

The paper raises questions about whether Google’s apps comply with GDPR but cautions that legal conclusions are out of scope for what is a technical analysis. We asked Google whether it believes its apps meet GDPR obligations but we received no reply.

Hopefully politicians in both the US and Europe are paying attention because this is something that merits an investigation. And perhaps some form of punishment.

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