New Study Shows Smartphones Share Data Every Four and a Half Minutes

Person holding a smartphone
New study raises concerns about how much privacy smartphones actually offer.

An academic study suggests that Android and iPhone smartphones share data with their respective es an average of once every four and a half minutes, even if the phone is idle in a drawer or pocket.


The research from Trinity College Dublin raises fresh concerns over user privacy with smartphones. The study claims there is little to no difference between Apple and Google as far as data collection goes.


The study, published by Professor Doug Leith at Trinity’s Connect Center, claimed that iPhones offered no greater privacy protection than Android phones.


The study did note that Google phones collected a “notably larger volume of handset data than Apple.” Google Pixel phones sent an average of 1MB of data every 12 hours, while the iPhone sent just 52kb.


The data sent by the devices including things such as whether a SIM card was inserted and information about the device itself, such as the serial number, phone number, and MAC address of the device.


“I think most people accept that Apple and Google need to collect data from our phones to provide services such as iCloud or Google Drive. But when we simply use our phones as phones – to make and receive calls and nothing more – it is much harder to see why Apple and Google need to collect data,” said Prof Leith.


The data about Apple is particularly disappointing as the company has made numerous claims about user privacy before.


Not only were smartphones collecting data on themselves, but also data from other nearby devices. When a phone connected to a WiFi network, Apple collected all the WiFi MAC addresses of other devices connected to that network.


“The WiFi MAC address identifies a device on a WiFi network and so, for example, uniquely identifies your home router, cafe hotspot, or office network. That means Apple can potentially track which people you are near to, as well as when and where. That’s very concerning.”


Professor Leith notes users can’t opt-out of this data collection. Apple has yet to comment on the research.

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