The study analysed top Android phones for various OEMs
An analysis of top-selling Android smartphones that run various custom skins, has revealed that they continue to track you and transmit user data, even after you opt out.
Prof Dough Leith from Trinity College Dublin and Dr Paul Patras along with Haoyu Liu from the University of Edinburgh analysed six variants of Android from top-selling smartphone manufacturers. These included devices from Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme, Huawei and two open-source Android forks, LineageOS and /e/OS.
The analysis concluded that even when opting out of most services and while the handsets were left idle, they transmitted huge amount of user data to OS developers and third-parties.
The study also found that there was no option to opt out of this data collection and this includes potentially sensitive information that could reveal user interests.
Xiaomi phones send details of all apps being used, including timings and durations of phone calls made on the device. Microsoft's Switftkey keyboard sends details of app usage over time.
Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme and Google collect device identifiers and advertising IDs, even when a user potentially disables advertising identifiers, they can link back to the same device.
Third-party apps from Google, Microsoft and Facebook silently collect data, even when they are not being used.
The only exception was the open-source /e/OS, which was found to transmit virtually no data.
"More worryingly, such practices take place “under the hood” on smartphones without users’ knowledge and without an accessible means to disable such functionality," said Dr Paul Patras, Associate Professor in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.
"Privacy-conscious Android variants are gaining traction though and our findings should incentivise market-leading vendors to follow suit."