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Google uses Android to track its rivals apps: Report

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Google uses Android to track its rivals apps: Report

https://www.newsbytesapp.com/timeline/science/63810/300147/google-reportedly-tracks-rival-android-apps

In a major shocker, a report from The Information has revealed that Google uses Android to track the applications offered by its rivals.

The company, according to the outlet's sources, gathers data around the usage and growth of these third-party services and then, in some cases, uses that information to gain a competitive advantage.

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I'm shocked that anyone else is shocked that Google is doing this.  Any company, if given the opportunity, would love to monitor the adoption rate/usage of their competitors; it's a great way to see where your own offerings may lack vs the competition in order to be more competitive.  I'm sure that Google aren't the only ones doing things like this, in fact, given how much data is collected by Windows 10, Microsoft is no doubt collecting just as much data, if not more, including when users decide to use products other than Microsoft's own offerings (such as OpenOffice, Chrome and the like).  I'm sure they monitor how often their users adopt Google or any other search engine other than their own services like Bing, Edge, and Cortana and try to use what they learn to improve their market position; unfortunately for them, it is perception and word of mouth that keeps most users on other, more popular services (Bing is actually a pretty robust search platform, though most users never know it because they switch to Google as soon as they can, and IE11 was the fastest browser on the market for years (yes, faster than both Chrome and Firefox; I know because I used all 3 for years; IE11 loads up faster by far, and with a lower hit to the CPU) but it didn't matter because Microsoft's marketing efforts couldn't convince the world that IE wasn't still the same insecure, outdated browser they were always told to avoid (when in fact, it was IE6 that was the browser that lingered too long, thanks to XP) and even a name change to 'Edge' couldn't save it until finally Microsoft basically gave up and adopted Chromium as the base for their new browser (which still lags well behind Chrome in market share).

There is a feature in Windows called Default Programs, and I fully expect Microsoft is keeping tabs on which apps users have configured as their defaults.

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A healthy competition is always good for the user's to benefit with better products/services. It's the spying aspect which makes one wary off.

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Yes, but it's not 'spying', it's 'telemetry', right?  That's what marketing people and corporate executives call it when they spy on people, though of course the data is sufficiently anonymous that no human would be able to identify anyone individually using said data; the question is: does that same anonymity apply to AI?  Can a machine, sufficiently trained and with a large enough data set and a wide enough pool of data points identify and determine more about an individual than the data collected from the individual would otherwise expose?  I believe the answer is yes, and that's why I oppose all efforts by all corporations and governments to collect information about individuals, no matter how 'anonymized' it might be.  It is spyware, just as all in-product marketing efforts are adware, regardless of how 'harmless' and 'innocuous' they might seem.

Once true AI is born, what would stop it from infiltrating every database in the world and correlating all of that data to learn just about everything about just about everyone?  Such questions were once safely within the realm of science fiction, but today it has become a real, looming threat that top scientists and researchers in the field expect to occur as an eventual certainty.  No one should have that much power.

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And that's why the ultimate control has to be with users, but one can't stifle growth, creator's/developers from pursuing technological advancements. 

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Absolutely, and it's not like the people behind these organizations are evil, they're not.  They are trying to provide the best services, products, and technologies they can, in the most cost efficient way possible.  Unfortunately, sometimes their drive to push forward, to innovate, and to dominate in the market leads to decisions that aren't in the best interest of their customers, and so it is up to the customers to let them know, by exercising choice in the marketplace and by making the decision to inform themselves about what these services are doing and what information is being collected and to determine if they are comfortable with the level of information that is being collected about them.

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Aptly put. But beggars can't be chosers. when one is dependant on a technology/service, competition apart, the fear of losing the service far outgrows any views to go against it.

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That's not at all true, at least in my opinion.  There is always an option to fight against bad practices, regardless of how crucial the service may be.  Just look at all the times Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others have been dragged through the courts, put before congresses and parliaments, to answer for their actions and called upon to make changes.  The same is true on social media and forums when there is outcry against a practice.  Word of mouth too is a powerful thing.  Just look at the example of Internet Explorer.  Even though it was the most widely used web browser, not to mention the system default for the most popular operating system on the planet, however users got away from it due to known security issues and because others like Google and Mozilla offered alternatives (of course the rise of the Android market didn't hurt either), and now Microsoft is lucky if they can make a dent, even in the Windows market because now everyone downloads Chrome (or whatever Edge alternative they've elected to use).

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Hmm. there r diehards who will not change come what may, say users with a particular mobile operator, sticking on inspite of better products in the market. which service providers take advantage of to bully/jgnore any protest. When a product becomes a household name, it will be difficult to get support for any change. 

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Posted (edited)

That's certainly true, however if the number of so-called 'diehards' is insufficient to keep the lights on, no sane company would continue to ostracize the masses and ignore their protests.  I'll give you an example again, and again it is Microsoft (I have a lot of familiarity with their history and they have had a tendency to deal with these very kinds of issues in the past).  When Microsoft made the decision to ship Windows 8 as a touch focused operating system in a feeble attempt to enter the mobile market by trying to create a seamless user experience between their desktop and mobile operating systems, countless users (myself included) were outraged and refused to use the OS, instead opting to stick with Windows 7.  We even told them how to fix it: just detect whether or not the device being used has touch capabilities or not, and if it does not then just show the standard taskbar and START menu rather than the absurd 'Metro' interface which was designed to mimic the likes of Android and iOS from Microsoft's mobile competitors.  Microsoft tried to stick to their guns, believing users would get used to it, however once even their business and enterprise customers complained and started taking advantage of their downgrade rights to install Windows 7 Microsoft paid attention and Windows 10 was the result (with 8.1 being a marginal step in the right direction).  Microsoft has now settled on a hybrid approach which allows a user to never see that obnoxious 'Metro' interface, with the OS functioning much more like the much loved Windows 7.

If a company doesn't listen to the market and adapt, either to deal with competition or to please their user base they will eventually find themselves out in the cold with someone else taking advantage of the money they left on the table by not listening to the market.  It has happened countless times, and if enough users get concerned about their privacy it will happen again unless these companies listen and make changes.  Of course, there is also the law to consider.  With so much being done online now, governments are finally taking notice and working on legislation to limit the reach of these powerful corporations and their services, and no amount of 'diehards' is going to keep companies in business when the legal system dictates that what they are doing is in violation of the law.

Edited by exile360

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Posted (edited)

But will such legislation, get thru' and see light of day and user rights/privacy protected/honored?

Edited by sman

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It depends on whether or not enough people speak up about it to their elected officials.  The recent passing of laws like GDPR are a prime example of this.  It's just a matter of making people aware of the issue, and the potential future consequences if things don't change.

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Posted (edited)

Hmm. if GDPR is in effect, how come Germany is going in for Trojanated tracking of usage at ISP levels (the article which I posted a few days back (https://forums.malwarebytes.com/topic/261598-new-german-law-would-force-isps-to-allow-secret-service-to-install-trojans/

And even UK having such tracking system https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investigatory_Powers_Act_2016#:~:text=From Wikipedia%2C the free encyclopedia The Investigatory Powers,Investigatory Powers Act 2016 on 29 November 2016.

 

Edited by sman

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No idea, but I'd imagine the laws that govern corporate collection of data probably don't apply to the German government, however if it is illegal then that is a matter for their courts to determine.  The NSA, CIA and others were exposed when the leaks happened and they were definitely in violation of law, however here in the US they also have been provided a ton of leeway thanks to post 9/11 legislation.  That's how projects like PRISM came to be.

The point is, we were talking about services and software providers like Google, not governments which are notorious for disregarding privacy and collecting data like a vacuum.

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Privacy can't be different or compromised for whatever reasons and has to be respected/honored from any form of snooping and any violations covered by law and apply for all (whether it be corporations, Govt). But if user's do care, things would not be where they are now (and shows that user's are not too concerned about it). 

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Posted (edited)

I agree with you, however the reality is what it is, but again, if people make themselves aware and push for it, change can happen.  Will that stop clandestine surveillance activities?  Probably not, however it can at least make it more difficult rather than allowing anyone to do so freely without consequences.  Ideally I wouldn't want anyone collecting data on others, however I am not in charge, but I know how to vote for the ones that are, and if privacy is important, then choosing candidates who have that as their priority, and using products and services from companies that make privacy a priority is a choice I can make.  This is why I'm using SRWare Iron and why I use DuckDuckGo instead of Google, and why I have tons of privacy related tools and settings configured on my devices.  I had the freedom to make those choices, and so does everyone else, as long as they get informed.

Edited by exile360

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Agreed. tools at the user level can only protect to some extent but not in toto, so unless legislation covers the loopholes, the issue will remain and yes, if there is unified campaign , things can change. But until then, user's will have to live with it.

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Yep, you got it.  I'm actually glad the leaks happened, and I'm glad that the privacy issues with Windows 10/Microsoft were exposed and brought on a major backlash prompting Microsoft to make changes, exposing more of the privacy functions to users and informing them from the beginning during setup.  These events were a factor in GDPR and similar legislation and they brought the issue of privacy in the digital age to the forefront.  It's hard for people not to be aware of something once it goes viral and hits all the news outlets as these events did.

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But to find Govt's complicity to legalise it, makes it harder to expect relief and the ball now lies only with the citizens to choose the right people to take notice of the user concerns. A big question.

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That's why I'm grateful that I live in a democracy.  The entire point is that it is up to the people to petition their representatives to look after their interests.

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Posted (edited)

But any relief so far? Good luck for the future, as other's can follow suit, taking cue from it.

Edited by sman

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Posted (edited)

Yes, actually.  Many of those clandestine programs were shut down/lost their budgets after their expiration dates.  Laws change all the time, and all it takes is the right people in power to make the change; this nation's history will attest to that fact, otherwise women would never have been allowed to vote or own property, and black Americans wouldn't have equal rights under the law as they do now.

And America isn't the only nation to see landmark changes in policy due to civil outcry; history books are full of examples.

This technology is fairly new, even though many alive today were born with it.  It takes time for legislation to catch up to technological innovation, however as cyber and privacy incidents occur it becomes clearer and clearer that changes are needed and I am confident that if people make an issue of it loudly enough, using their choices, their clicks, their votes and their wallets, things can and will change for the better.

Edited by exile360

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Count me in not as your county buddy but as a user-user to hope for the better.

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Amen to that, lets hope things do change for the better :)

Of course, places like this on the web where we discuss and focus on cybersecurity and advocating user privacy, not to mention IT security companies like Malwarebytes are all working to better inform people and to help make the web a safer place.  We can't go back to the old days before the likes of AoL when the web was totally free and anonymous, but hopefully we can transform it into a place where privacy is revered as it should be.

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😍😍 well summed. tks to MB and people like you for all the efforts into it.

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