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Monday, November 25, 2013

Google and privacy

I use an Android phone and an Android tablet. There are a fair number of updates through the week to various apps. I appreciate that Google Play store tells me what's changed when I choose an update.

I was surprised to see that Google Maps wanted access to my "personal information." "New: Read your contacts. Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge." A map application wants to know how often I phone or email somebody? Why? So it can preload their addresses as maps for my convenience? Really?

Now this new change has spread to Twitter, Dropbox, and Hangouts. It's all in the name, I'm sure, of Big Data. Gee, who are the people at the Internet nexuses?

So I've been skipping these updates, because this change doesn't seem to have any other purpose than to spy on me and my friends.

"When the service is free, YOU are the product."

Then I got a letter from Google and GfK (a marketing firm) offering to pay me in exchange for putting in a high speed router to monitor my web traffic. They claim, of course, that "all of the information gathered from your household is strictly confidential in accordance ith GfK's policy (details available at" And the more devices I attach to this router, which they will install in my home, the more money they'll pay me. I suppose it's refreshing that a company both tells me they're spying on me, and pays me for the privilege. Now, mostly, they don't do either.


RDBangs6849 said...

I try to NOT do anything that gives an app access to my contacts. I say TRY, because I'm certain they have already figured out ways to mine my data.
Rich Bangs

Jamie said...

Yeah, what is UP with that? And sometimes, the updates don't warn you, or I don't notice that I've been warned.

Michael Sauers said...

I'm going to focus my comment on what you (possibly) get out of an app having access to your contacts. I am in no way commenting on whether this is a good thing or on how well (or not) they notify you.

For example: an app can't let you know if people you know are in your vicinity if the app doesn't know you want to know about. The app discovers this via your contact list.

Imagine Maps telling you that the person you have an upcoming meeting with is going to be 10 minutes away based on where they are and current traffic.

To set this up it looks through your contacts and says something like "I see your wife also uses maps. Would you like to be notified if..."

Granted (what I wasn't going to get in to,) the app should notify and have a minimal level of control over how that information is used, but that's just one reason why an app would need access to your contacts.

jeremy said...

With such big data companies, it will be interesting to say the least to see what's coming down the pike and if the majority of consumers will blithely take it in stride.

Jamie said...

Ok, Michael, I can understand a map wanting to know my location and addresses, but why FREQUENCY OF CONTACT?

Michael Sauers said...

Theoretically: The more frequently you contact someone, the more important they are to you.

Jamie said...

But their importance shouldn't affect the function of the application. It would seem to be of significance only to blackmailers or kidnappers.