Google stops providing carriers with Android data to avoid privacy issues – report

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Data was only collected from users who had opted to share location history and usage and diagnostics information with Google, according to Reuters. (Google)

In order to steer clear of potential scrutiny over privacy concerns, Google is no longer providing wireless carriers around the world with certain Android phone data that helped identify weak spots in network coverage, according to Reuters.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reported that wireless carriers were disappointed by the loss of data, which was aggregated and anonymous, as it was used to help choose areas to extend or upgrade network coverage.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed to the news outlet that the company’s Mobile Network Insights service was shut down in April, saying the move was prompted by changing “product priorities.”

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The free service reportedly showed a coverage map of a carriers’ own service, as well as competitors (not identified by name), including signal strengths and connection speeds in each area.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Welcome to the wireless industry’s Cambridge Analytica

Data was only collected from users who had opted to share location history and usage and diagnostics information with Google, according to Reuters.  

The information, while not carriers’ only source of network performance data, was useful in part because of how many Android devices are in the market.

A former employee at Dubai-based carrier du told the news outlet that the Google service was an “independent reference from the horse’s mouth, so you couldn’t get any better than this.”

Sources told Reuters that Google’s decision to shutter the service rather than risk scrutiny from users and regulators over data privacy concerns.

The public and government have started examining data privacy practices of tech and even wireless companies more closely, demanding more transparency after situations came to light, like Facebook improperly sharing data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica.

RELATED: Wireless carriers tell FCC they stopped selling user location data to aggregators

Over the past year, the wireless industry was embroiled its own privacy scandals when a wave of investigations revealed that carriers were selling real-time customer location data to third-party data aggregators, which then sold the information to other companies, in some cases eventually trickling down to bounty hunters and bail bondsmen.

In June 2018, the major wireless carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, pledged to cease providing location data to third-party brokers.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in May 2019 requested an update from carriers on their efforts to stop location data abuse. The four carriers each responded and indicated that they already had or planned by mid-2019 to terminate contracts with location aggregators. That included LocationSmart, a third-party aggregator that had been at the center of a location data controversy.

 

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