The modern age of the internet has brought constant access to everything we may want to see or know, at a huge cost to privacy. When we discuss privacy in this sense, it is not so much that a hacker has access to your information, but your information is being collected and used by the very company you are trusting to protect you.
As it stands there are only two major operating systems for phones, iOS and Android made by Apple and Google respectively. There are many other smaller operating systems, but these two giants own more than 99% of the market space. If you are buying a new phone from any major brand, you are getting Android or iOS. While both Google and Apple are responsible for the capturing and usage of your data, they go about the process in different ways.
- Google – Google treats its android platform as essentially a marketing platform. Android is completely free to use by anybody and is open source, allowing any brand to use the software. In exchange, Google collects your data to provide tailor made adverts for you. These advertisements are the income of Android.
- Apple – Apple has attempted to take the moral high ground here. A completely closed off system where the only data collected about you, is used to improve the iOS experience. Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, went on record saying “We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right” and Apple have backed up that statement for the most part, besides one glaring omission. In 2021 Google has paid Apple $15 billion to remain the default search engine of the safari browser, allowing Google to collect the user’s search information and provide targeted advertisements. This allows Apple to still make money from users internet information while retaining the ability to claim the moral high ground, simply shifting the blame to Google, who actually uses the user information.
Should You Care?
For the most part, most people either don’t understand or just don’t care. Besides, a few targeted ads in exchange for the use of a great operating system doesn’t sound like a bad deal. One of the biggest reasons this is concerning is the claimed sale of your personal data.
At the moment, Google does not sell your data directly. Google uses the data to find what adverts would best be presented to you and then sells the advertising slot knowing that you are the best likely customer. The only time in which your data leaves the hand of Google is when ordered by a court or policing unit. If you are a lead suspect in a crime, Google may be forced to give police access to your location data under a “geofence warrant”. For the average law-abiding citizen, this is of no concern, so you can play Android games and do whatever else you choose with peace of mind.
For the majority of people, the way Google uses our data is not a large concern. If you do feel that you are concerned about this and want to better protect your online privacy, there are a number of options available to you.
Taking Back Privacy
To take back your privacy means breaking away from Google and the software supplied by Google. To do this, there are two main options. Either, you can buy a phone which is built for privacy with an open-source operating system like the Purism Librem 5, or you could flash an existing android phone and install an operating system like Plasma Mobile, Lineage OS, or Ubuntu Touch. The latter option will require some tech know-how but is a great and free option to better secure your online privacy.