Google Sued After Mobile Allowances Eaten Up By Hidden Data Transfers

Slashdot reader Iwastheone shared this report from the Register: Google on Thursday was sued for allegedly stealing Android users’ cellular data allowances though unapproved, undisclosed transmissions to the web giant’s servers…

The complaint contends that Google is using Android users’ limited cellular data allowances without permission to transmit information about those individuals that’s unrelated to their use of Google services… What concerns the plaintiffs is data sent to Google’s servers that isn’t the result of deliberate interaction with a mobile device — we’re talking passive or background data transfers via cell network, here. “Google designed and implemented its Android operating system and apps to extract and transmit large volumes of information between Plaintiffs’ cellular devices and Google using Plaintiffs’ cellular data allowances,” the complaint claims…

Android users have to accept four agreements to participate in the Google ecosystem: Terms of Service; the Privacy Policy; the Managed Google Play Agreement; and the Google Play Terms of Service. None of these, the court filing contends, disclose that Google spends users’ cellular data allowances for these background transfers. To support the allegations, the plaintiff’s counsel tested a new Samsung Galaxy S7 phone running Android, with a signed-in Google Account and default setting, and found that when left idle, without a Wi-Fi connection, the phone “sent and received 8.88 MB/day of data, with 94 per cent of those communications occurring between Google and the device.” The device, stationary, with all apps closed, transferred data to Google about 16 times an hour, or about 389 times in 24 hours. Assuming even half of that data is outgoing, Google would receive about 4.4MB per day or 130MB per month in this manner per device subject to the same test conditions…

An iPhone with Apple’s Safari browser open in the background transmits only about a tenth of that amount to Apple, according to the complaint… Vanderbilt University Professor Douglas C. Schmidt performed a similar study in 2018 — except that the Chrome browser was open — and found that Android devices made 900 passive transfers in 24 hours…

The complaint charges that Google conducts these undisclosed data transfers for further its advertising business, sending “tokens” that identify users for targeted advertising and preload ads that generate revenue even if they’re never displayed.