Android and its owner, Google/Alphabet, often make the news thanks to reports like “Google knows your location at all times.” In other words, if you search “Android privacy concerns,” prepare for an avalanche of articles, studies, and stories that paint a nasty picture.
Apple, on the other hand, rarely finds itself in hot water because of privacy concerns. What’s more, its operating system is marketed as privacy-focused. The company promises its users that iOS features don’t “come at the expense of your privacy.”
But does Android indeed report your every move to Google? And how does that compare to Apple’s data collection?
Tech experts from EssayPro.com have a lot to say in this matter. Let’s see what they have to say about the data Android and iOS collect – and what it all means for you as a user.
Table Of Contents
- 1 What Android Knows About Its Users
- 2 What Apple Knows About iOS Users
- 3 How iOS Data Collection Compares to Android’s
- 4 In Conclusion: What All of This Means for You
What Android Knows About Its Users
Most budget phones come with Android, which is a big reason why this OS has an almost 70-percent global market share. And while smartphone manufacturers are known to collect and sell device and app use data themselves (looking at you, Samsung), Google isn’t any better.
The root of the problem is that more than 80% of the company’s revenue is generated by its advertising services. And since this is the company’s main cash cow, Google needs as much information as it can get its hands on to provide accurate targeting services.
But what data does Android collect, exactly? Let’s break down three major examples.
Your Android phone will transmit your location multiple times throughout the day without you being aware of it. What’s even scarier, it’ll do that even if you turn off Location Services, as reporters from Quartz found out.
How does Android manage that? Your location can be pinpointed using other means than GPS. Here are two major ways Android can do it:
- Triangulating your location using data from multiple cell phone towers nearby;
- Determining the device’s location by analyzing the nearby Wi-Fi access points.
Search & App History
Most people don’t think twice about the pre-installed apps that come with their new Android smartphone. Most of them are helpful for everything from studies to navigation, after all. Anyway, if you don’t log into an account, your data should stay on your device. Right?
Wrong. The thing is, even if you try to use those apps without an account, Google will know everything about your in-app activity, according to a 2021 9to5 report. That includes what you searched for in Chrome or Google Maps, what events you added to Google Calendar, etc.
Here’s the list of the pre-installed apps that Google gets information from:
- Google Docs;
- Google Messenger;
Texts, Calls, & Emails
According to a 2022 research paper by Trinity College Dublin computer science professor Douglas Leith, Google knows what you text and who you call. What’s worse, users are not notified about this information being collected, and there’s no way to opt out.
Here’s what information from Phone and Messages apps that Google stores on its servers:
- Hashes of message texts;
- Call duration and time;
- Phone numbers.
If you use Gmail in your personal or professional life, your emails’ contents are also stored on Google’s servers. The company makes no secret out of it, saying the emails are systematically analyzed.
What Apple Knows About iOS Users
Whenever Apple launches a new product, privacy is always listed among its other key selling points. That’s why iOS has the reputation of being a more private and secure operating system.
But is it truly so? While Apple may not have been implicated in huge scandals, it’s still known to collect a great amount of data about its iOS users. Here are just some types of information the company has on you if you own an iPhone.
Read more about how to maximize your phone life
Metadata About Your Calls & Texts
Google isn’t the only company that can know who you called or texted. Apple also keeps track of that, as Zack Whittaker, a reporter at ZDNet, found out. He requested all of the data the company had on him and published his findings.
Unlike Google, however, Apple doesn’t have its hands on the hashes of message texts. The company collects only the metadata: when and who you called via FaceTime or texted.
iCloud & Mail Logs
Apple stores the data about your interactions with iCloud, too. That includes when and how you log into your account, along with every time you download a file from the cloud. Your actual files, however, remain encrypted, so the company has no access to them.
Your mail log is just a list of every time you interacted with your Apple email account. Unlike it’s the case with Gmail, this company doesn’t seem to have access to the contents of your emails.
Everything Synced Over the Cloud
Whenever you sync your data or preferences in Apple apps using iCloud, the company has access to its contents, as reporters from AppleInsider found out. That includes:
- Calendar settings and events;
- Safari bookmarks;
- Browsing history.
Here’s an important note, though: Health data stays on the device. You can back it up, but it’s impossible to have it synced in the iCloud. So, your Health information remains safe.
Your Activity in Apple’s Apps
According to AppleInsider, Apple also keeps track of how you use all of its apps – which isn’t surprising. Here are just two examples of what it means:
- Your Stores history: iBooks purchases, Apple TV bookmarks, favorite podcasts, and your listening history;
- Apple Music activity: the tracks in your library, which songs you like and dislike, your preferred genres, and actions like looking for a specific track.
How iOS Data Collection Compares to Android’s
So, is Android worse than iOS at privacy? Or, since both companies have a significant track record, maybe you should just let the idea of privacy go?
You’re not the only one wondering about these questions. Douglas Leith, a researcher at Trinity College Dublin, decided to investigate the matter and compare how much data Android and iOS devices transmit in 2021.
According to his study, both Android and iOS devices regularly send packets of information to Google and Apple servers, respectively. That happens even if the devices are idle and the user opted out of any data collection.
However, the amounts of data are staggeringly different: Google receives 1MB of information, while Apple collects only 52KB every 12 hours. That’s a 20-time difference! So, yes, the bottom line is that Google collects more data about you than Apple.
In Conclusion: What All of This Means for You
Whether you like it or not, both Android and iOS smartphones will continue to collect information about you and your activities. So, whether you own an iPhone or an Android phone, here are four recommendations for you if you want to keep as much of your data private as possible:
- Do a settings audit. Opt out of location and browsing history tracking, sharing analytics with Google or Apple, and so on. Check both your OS settings and permissions for all the apps you have installed.
- Avoid using pre-installed apps and default services. Every time you use Chrome on Android or Safari on iOS, you hand over more of your data. Opt for privacy-focused apps and services like Firefox and DuckDuckGo.
- Use a VPN. If you want your online activity to be truly private, you can’t make do without a VPN. A good VPN tool encrypts all of your traffic, whether you’re surfing the web or using a cloud storage app.
- Consider switching to /e/OS. This is an open-source privacy-focused OS. Researchers have verified that all the data collection that Google calls ‘necessary’ doesn’t happen on /e/OS-powered devices.