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Google seems to be playing safe to avoid closer inspection from regulators and lawmakers.
Reuters reports that Google has shut down its Mobile Network Insights service because of concerns that “sharing data from its Android phone system users may attract the user and regulatory scrutiny.”
Offered to wireless carriers worldwide, the service was mainly a map of signal strengths and connection speeds, and was intended to identify weak spots in their network coverage.
Google’s privacy quandary
In March 2017, the search giant launched the service, but it is said to have shut it down earlier this April. Mobile Network Insights data came from Android phone users who agreed to share with Google their “location history and usage and diagnosis.”
The company pulled out the plug citing data privacy concerns, while this data was anonymised and aggregated.
Google’s shutdown has “disappointed wireless carriers that used the data as part of their decision-making process on where to extend or upgrade their coverage,” the report added.
Big technology companies are increasingly being regulated in terms of their data collection and sharing practices. Strict EU GDPR provisions, which require businesses to seek explicit user permission before processing their information, could also have made it partly necessary.
The call for transparency
The precautionary decision made by Google to end a practice is due in latest years to a series of privacy mistakes and data scandals.
During the past few months, human contractors have been used by Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook to listen silently to conversations recorded using their products to enhance the quality of software. Although inherent in the exercise is nothing wrong, neither company revealed that.
The data minimisation effort is only a beginning when seen through this lens. Because if one thing has been repeatedly demonstrated by behavioural research, consumers rarely change their default settings.
Therefore the decision of the company to end the service is a step in the right direction. We need a platform that will take privacy seriously and encode it into its design so that transparency and trust are generated.
- Anirudh is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at Clickdotme. He does not like describing himself in the third-person and had a hard time coming up with these two sentences!
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