Does Google Manifest Addiction to Personal Data?

March 31, 2021

I read an amusing “we don’t do that!” write up in “Google Collects 20 Times More Telemetry from Android Devices Than Apple from iOS.” The cyber security firm Recorded Future points to academic research asserting:

The study unearthed some uncomfortable results. For starters, Prof. Leith said that “both iOS and Google Android transmit telemetry, despite the user explicitly opting out of this [option].” Furthermore, “this data is sent even when a user is not logged in (indeed even if they have never logged in),” the researcher said. [Weird bold face in original text removed.]

Okay, this is the stuff of tenure. The horrors of monopolies and clueless users who happily gobble up free services.

What’s amazing is that the write up does not point out the value of these data for predictive analytics. That’s the business of Recorded Future, right? Quite an oversight. That’s what happens when “news” stumbles over the business model paying for marketing via content. Clever? Of course.

The reliability of the probabilities generated by the Recorded Future methods pivot on having historical and real time data. No wonder Google and Apple suggest that “we don’t do that.”

Recorded Future’s marketing is one thing, but Google’s addiction to data is presenting itself in quite fascinating ways. Navigate to “Google’s New App Automagically Organizes Your Scanned Documents.” The write up states:

The app lets you scan documents and then it uses AI to automatically name and sort them into different categories such as bills, IDs, and vehicles.

And what happens?

To make it easy to find documents, you can also search through the full text of the document.

What types of documents does a happy user scan? Maybe the Covid vaccination card? Maybe legal documents like mortgages, past due notices from a lawyer, divorce papers, and similar tough-to-obtain information of a quite private and personal nature?

My point is that mobile devices are data collection devices. The data are used to enable the Apple and Google business models. Ads, information about preferences, clues to future actions, and similar insights are now routinely available to those with access to the data and analytic systems.

The professor on the tenure track or gunning for an endowed chair can be surprised by practices which have been refined over many years. Not exactly ground breaking research.

Google obtaining access to scanned personal documents? No big deal. Think how easy and how convenient the free app makes taming old fashioned paper. I wonder if Google has an addiction to data and can no longer help itself?

Without meaningful regulation, stunned professors and mobile device users in love with convenience are cementing monopoly control over information flows.

Oh, Recorded Future was once a start up funded by Google and In-Q-Tel. Is that a useful fact?

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2021


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