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Android apps secretly sent text and call data to Google

As a study from Trinity College Dublin shows, Google has a special understanding of privacy. So Android users can’t prevent the pre-installed apps for texting and telephony from sending a lot of data to Google – and not all of it anonymously. That comes from a Media report by The Register. Google collected ciphertext and call logs without an opt-out option or special notice and evaluated them on Google. The user actually does not notice anything at all. According to The Register, this may be a gross violation of European data protection law.

Security researchers discover the problem

The data transfer was discovered during an investigation for the research paper “What Data Do The Google Dialer and Messages Apps On Android Send to Google?” by computer science professor Douglas Leith of Trinity College Dublin. It is all the data that Google Messages (for text messages) and Google Dialer (for phone calls) send to the Google Play Services Clearcut Logger service and to the Google Firebase Analytics service.

The data sent by Google Messages contains a hash of the message body, enabling a link between the sender and recipient in a messaging,” the paper says. “The data sent by Google Dialer includes the time and duration of the call, allowing the pairing of the two handsets involved in a call. The phone numbers are also sent to Google.”

Google responded

The time and duration of other user interactions with these applications were also passed on to Google. And Google offers no possibility to object to this data collection. Both apps are likely preinstalled on over a billion Android phones. “I was surprised that this data was collected by these Google apps,” says Professor Leith. He submitted his findings to Google last November with a series of “suggestions” on how data transmission behavior should be changed.

Some have already been implemented. A Google spokesperson told The Register after the report was released that the data were collected for diagnostic purposes only: “We are committed to complying with European data protection laws and apply strict privacy rules to data collected through our Dialer and Messaging services. apps.

Both Dialers and Messages use a limited amount of data for very specific purposes that enable us to diagnose and troubleshoot product functionality issues and ensure that message delivery is always reliable. These technical logs are not – and are never – used for ad targeting and protected by strict internal access controls Phone numbers and hashed SMS related data in messages were only used in technical logs to troubleshoot app services Phone numbers not stored in a user’s contact list were n only used by dialers to protect users from unwanted spam calls.


Mark Goodman

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