Do No What Now?
Keep your eyes open for what might be a new class action suit against Alphabet, as a lawsuit has been filed by four parties in several states in the US claiming that their Android phones are using up cellular data without permissions. The suit claims that the data being used is unrelated to their use of Google services and so outside the terms and services agreement we all ignore when setting up a new phone. For those with limited data plans and no WiFi, this data usage could result in overage charges.
They tested a brand new Galaxy S7, signed into a Google account but with no apps opened on the actual phone and saw the phone reach out to Google an average of 16 times an hour, to the tune of about 4.4MB per day. On the same phone with only Chrome open that increases to 8.88 MB/day of data and when used as one normally would they saw up to about 11.6MB. Now that is not a huge amount of data for many, but the transfers continue regardless if you have WiFi or not, which means that someone on a limited data plan may find themselves footing the bill for these calls to home.
The data is supposedly log files that record network availability, open apps, and OS info; all of which could wait for a WiFi signal but do not. The claimants charge that this is not all that is transferred however, suggesting there is evidence that the data includes tokens that are used for targeted advertising and preload ads.
Those preload ads should concern even those that have a data plan which can swallow the extra traffic without blinking. These are ads which are transferred to your phone but never displayed to you. There are two reasons to dislike this, the first being that secret ads being sent to your phone is an attack vector we are completely unaware of and have no way to prevent. The second is that these ads generate revenue for the Google, as they will charge the company using the Google’s ad service as if this was an ad view. That means your monthly advertising bill from Google may include charges for ad views which never happened.
If the case does proceed, we may see it grow into a class action suit in the USA.