Major Android smartphone OS, including Custom ROM, constantly beaming telemetry data with no way to turn it off, leaving users powerless?

Android Smartphones Privacy Issues
If you value privacy, give up Android smartphones? Pic credit: Daniel Sancho/Flickr

A new, and concerning report strongly indicates that Android smartphones are a privacy advocate’s nightmare. Despite turning off multiple settings, and even restricting apps, an Android device transmits vast amounts of telemetry data to the OS developer and third-party apps.

If anyone zealously cares about privacy, simply steer clear of an Android smartphone, indicates a new study by a team of university researchers in the UK. Apparently, even Custom ROM creators cannot, or perhaps do not, shield users from privacy issues.

Besides Samsung, Xiaomi, and Realme, even LineageOS sends a lot of data back to developers?

It is no secret that Android smartphones have had privacy issues for a long time. The Android Operating System, is, however, undergoing changes, albeit gradually.

But, a new study by a team of university researchers in the UK has discovered several concerning privacy issues that become commonplace if a smartphone user opts for an Android device.

The Android Operating System, at its core, could be secure. It may handle user data and privacy with care. However, it is the third-party customizations, commonly called “Android Skin” that are the ones playing with user privacy.

The obvious candidates are Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, and Huawei Android devices. Interestingly, the research team also analyzed the behavior of Custom ROMs for Android smartphones. These included LineageOS and /e/OS, two popular forks of Android.

The study concluded: “With the notable exception of /e/OS, even when minimally configured and the handset is idle these vendor-customized Android variants transmit substantial amounts of information to the OS developer and also to third parties (Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) that have pre-installed system apps.”

Can Android smartphone users protect their privacy by turning off the collection of telemetry and other user data?

Google creates and maintains the core Android smartphone OS. The company even offers the critical services that make any Android device, useful.

Services such as Navigation, Communication, etc. need Google Mobile Services or GMS. GMS is a collection of proprietary applications and application programming interfaces services from Google. And then there’s Google Play Services that apps and associated services need to function.

LineageOS and /e/OS, two of the most popular forks of Android, aim to offer long-term support and a de-Googled experience. In other words, these customized operating systems should, in theory, shield users from extensive data collection.

However, this does not appear to be the case. What’s even more concerning is that there’s no strict opt-out. Simply put, “Android users are powerless against this type of telemetry,” concluded the study.

The study discovered, when smartphone vendors include third-party apps, they are silently collecting data. Surprisingly, data collection continues even if the smartphone user does not use such preinstalled apps.

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6 months ago

No, lineageos don’t send data to google. In this report they flashed gapps package (google apps) on the custom rom intentionally. Without gapps lineageos is completely private.

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