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posted by martyb on Wednesday October 13, @05:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Android Phones Still Track You, Even When You Opt Out:

If you use an Android phone and are (rightfully!) worried about digital privacy, you’ve probably taken care of the basics already. You’ve deleted the snoopiest of the snoopy apps, opted out of tracking whenever possible, and taken all of the other precautions the popular how-to privacy guides have told you to. The bad news—and you might want to sit down for this—is that none of those steps are enough to be fully free of trackers.

Or at least, that’s the thrust of a new paper from researchers at Trinity College in Dublin who took a look at the data-sharing habits of some popular variants of Android’s OS, including those developed by Samsung, Xiaomi, and Huawei. According to the researchers, “with little configuration” right out of the box and when left sitting idle, these devices would incessantly ping back device data to the OS’s developers and a slew of selected third parties. And what’s worse is that there’s often no way to opt out of this data-pinging, even if users want to.

A lot of the blame here, as the researchers point out, fall on so-called “system apps.” These are apps that come pre-installed by the hardware manufacturer on a certain device in order to offer a certain kind of functionality: a camera or messages app are examples. Android generally packages these apps into what’s known as the device’s “read only memory” (ROM), which means you can’t delete or modify these apps without, well, rooting your device. And until you do, the researchers found they were constantly sending device data back to their parent company and more than a few third parties—even if you never opened the app at all.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you own a Samsung device that happens to be packaged with some Microsoft bloatware pre-installed, including (ugh) LinkedIn. Even though there’s a good chance you’ll never open LinkedIn for any reason, that hard-coded app is constantly pinging back to Microsoft’s servers with details about your device. In this case, it’s so-called “telemetry data,” which includes details like your device’s unique identifier, and the number of Microsoft apps you have installed on your phone. This data also gets shared with any third-party analytics providers these apps might have plugged in, which typically means Google, since Google Analytics is the reigning king of all the analytics tools out there.


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  • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @05:29PM (16 children)

    by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @05:29PM (#1186714)

    If you use an Android phone and are (rightfully!) worried about digital privacy....

    That sentence was like going over a speedbump too fast.

    --
    Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @07:21PM (15 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @07:21PM (#1186743)

      I don't know, what's the alternative? It's not like Apple doesn't spy hard on their users, though at least they mostly don't let app developers do the same. Even old flip-phones perform a disturbing amount of surveillance. But it's become almost impossible to act as a socially-engaged member of society without one.

      I drive a car and am (rightfully) worried about the many irresponsible idiots sharing the road.
      I buy non-organic food and am (rightfully) worried about the long-term effects of all the toxic chemicals they're saturated with on the farm - both on myself and the environment.

      And I could go on and on - modern life is one huge experiment with no control group, and we know for certain that lots of weird shit is happening without any real understanding of why. For example, the "fattening of America" is actually happening world-wide, even to lab animals on calorie-controlled diets, who are getting fatter than their predecessors who were on exactly the same calorie-controlled diets several decades ago. Presumably there's some environmental cause, perhaps all the artificial estrogen now saturating 100% of the world's water supplies, which is presumably having other effects as well. I think I'm rightfully worried about that too, but what can I do about it?

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @07:28PM (8 children)

        by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @07:28PM (#1186746)

        It's not like Apple doesn't spy hard on their users, though at least they mostly don't let app developers do the same.

        Apple wants to sell more overpriced phones and is heavily invested in its "privacy" PR, Google wants to sell your data and clearly gives no fucks. I don't understand why you're passing this off as "basically the same".

        --
        Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 13, @08:09PM (5 children)

          by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 13, @08:09PM (#1186753) Journal

          I'm puzzled what your argument is.

          Is it that Apple is better because they at least pretend to care about your privacy?

          Or is it that Google is better because they at least don't try to hide the privacy violations?

          --
          The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @08:26PM (4 children)

            by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @08:26PM (#1186759)

            I'm puzzled what your argument is.

            Apple and Google have different core businesses and that manifests itself in different ways that matter in this context. Example: Google knows, right now, that you wrote that post AND where you probably posted it from and what your real name is... and it doesn't even matter if you posted that from an Android phone or a Google-branded browser. Apple likely doesn't, at least without adding heaps of qualifiers.

            Honestly folks, this isn't the site to hang out on if you don't know the difference between Apple and Google.

            --
            Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
            • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 13, @09:28PM (3 children)

              by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 13, @09:28PM (#1186794) Journal

              Example: Google knows, right now, that you wrote that post AND where you probably posted it from and what your real name is...

              I strongly doubt it.

              and it doesn't even matter if you posted that from an Android phone or a Google-branded browser.

              Neither.

              Apple likely doesn't

              Obviously not, since I didn't post from any Apple device. But if I did, what exactly does make you so sure about that? That Apple says so? Sorry, I'm not going to take any company's word on that.

              --
              The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
              • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @09:32PM (2 children)

                by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @09:32PM (#1186797)

                Obviously not, since I didn't post from any Apple device. But if I did, what exactly does make you so sure about that?

                For one thing I don't give Apple the data I give Google.

                --
                Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
                • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 13, @09:48PM (1 child)

                  by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 13, @09:48PM (#1186807) Journal

                  In which way is the data you chose to give to Google tell them anything about me?

                  --
                  The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
                  • (Score: 2) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @10:23PM

                    by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @10:23PM (#1186813)
                    Okay I admit I phrased that in a dumbshit way, but come on, you know what I meant. If you're using an Android phone you're giving Google more data points they can correlate with your web searches AND in many cases they can correlate it with ads they've served on various sites across the whole internet. Apple, however, lacks that reach.

                    But, hey, while we're here let's run with my original phrasing for a second: Do you really think Google does not have info on you that others haven't given them? Like a buddy that has you on their contact list, or a gmail user who has corresponded with you? Do you really think Google's information on you is identical in quantity to Apple's? I mean Google's crawler is watching this conversation right now. Just for fun search for this phrase and include the quotes: "That one is easy: About 600W. Almost all the energy that goes in the card is turned into heat."
                    --
                    Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @08:33PM (1 child)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @08:33PM (#1186768)

          PR being the active word.

          They are better, but have still been caught out hoovering lots of user data. Would you rather be spied on by someone who shares your data with anyone willing to pay, or who only sells the *results* of that spying? Either way they are almost certainly sharing all the data with the government - willingly, unwillingly, or even unknowingly.

          Once collected, surveillance data belongs to anyone capable of getting their hands on it. And all the major players in both government and other organized crime can almost certainly get their hands on it.

          • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Tork on Wednesday October 13, @08:55PM

            by Tork (3914) on Wednesday October 13, @08:55PM (#1186780)

            They are better, but have still been caught out hoovering lots of user data. ... Either way they are almost certainly sharing all the data with the government - willingly, unwillingly, or even unknowingly. ... Once collected, surveillance data belongs to anyone capable of getting their hands on it.

            Heh. "Lots". What a wonderfully vague term to use. Look I'm not saying Apple's a saint, but can you honestly say Apple's data gathering is anything at all like Google's? Would you be the slightest bit interested in an Apple branded search engine? Wasn't Apple Maps a big joke? Does anybody really consider Safari a major browser? Can any of these be boldly answered "yes" or "no" without a zillion qualifications?

            Google makes something like $150 billion from ad revenue, Apple generates about $3 billion. Either PR really is the active word and is quite effective at keeping Apple in check or they're fundamentally different business models that yield very different results. Pick your poison, just don't throw out important data in the process. Google isn't. :P

            p.s. No, I am not pushing for Apple, here. I'm just really shocked at how ready some of you are to handwave away Google's power over the internet over tribal phone-preferences.

            --
            Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 13, @08:13PM (1 child)

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 13, @08:13PM (#1186755)

        modern life is one huge experiment with no control group

        There is a control group: The so-called "primitive" peoples that still exist in a handful of places. But even then they're affected by not having a backup Earth that's free of environmental contaminants.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:31PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:31PM (#1186796)

          Nope. Even they are subject to much of the chemical soup we've saturated the environment with. Even the purest fresh-caught rainwater deep in the Andes is rich in synthetic psuedo-estrogens and many other bioactive chemicals, both synthetic and stuff produced by the synthetics interacting with each other and natural chemicals in ways we've never examined in the lab.

      • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Wednesday October 13, @08:49PM (2 children)

        by RamiK (1813) on Wednesday October 13, @08:49PM (#1186774)

        though at least they mostly don't let app developers do the same.

        They're perfectly fine with the kind of pingback-telemetry this article is discussing. If you don't believe me, install an on-device VPN-tunnel based firewall like Lockdown [apple.com] and see the logs for yourself.

        Incidentally, while Android has similar VPN-based firewalls available on the play store and fdroid, rooted Android devices can also run iptables-based firewalls [f-droid.org] that covers the system apps.

        So, that's something you could do.

        --
        compiling...
        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:44PM (1 child)

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:44PM (#1186805)

          Do they? I haven't actually paid much attention. I crossed my fingers and hoped when they jumped on the personal privacy horse, but it didn't take long for them to make clear it was more PR theater than design philosophy.

          • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Thursday October 14, @02:27AM

            by RamiK (1813) on Thursday October 14, @02:27AM (#1186847)

            didn't take long for them to make clear it was more PR theater than design philosophy

            Was it ever about anything other than DRM since the 2001's iPod release?

            --
            compiling...
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, @06:29PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, @06:29PM (#1187336)

        I don't know, what's the alternative?

        I use a Xiaomi and hope they keep more and more of that data on me in China, out of reach from the USA, NSA, etc. ;)

        I don't intend to ever go to China. The US Gov is a greater danger to me than the Chinese Gov.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Wednesday October 13, @06:23PM (14 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Wednesday October 13, @06:23PM (#1186723)

    So, in other words, if you value your privacy, don't use a cell phone.

    It sucks that so few people actually care about their privacy.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday October 13, @07:08PM (9 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday October 13, @07:08PM (#1186738)

      It sucks that so few people actually care about their privacy.

      Does it? I mean, as long as the rights to privacy still exist, the fact that most people go around spewing an incessant datastream about themselves makes privacy for those who value it all the more special. Now, when the rights to privacy are legislated away - then that starts to suck, but even in the "good old days" if you were a person of interest (worthy of the expense), the G men could and did dive your dumpster, tail your car, interview your neighbors, etc. with or without your knowledge or consent.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @07:34PM (8 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @07:34PM (#1186747)

        I think it does.

        For one example - let's assume for the moment that the government is NOT all sweetness and light, and actively takes steps to undermine any challenge to its ever-growing power and authority. Just as it's been well-documented doing since at least the 50s.

        Near-ubiquitous surveillance means they can rapidly identify and undermine many potential threats before they ever reach the public awareness. And should you opt out of surveillance, a whole lot of information is still swept up in the surveillance of those around you - friends and even passerbys. Moreover, by attempting to opt out of ubiquitous surveillance, you immediately paint a red flag on yourself as a person of interest - after all you wouldn't put up with the inconvenience without a good reason, right? Where there's smoke, there's fire. Or at least plenty of people willing to assume so.

        The end result is there's far fewer people who ever reach a position to provide a credible challenge to the expanding powers of government, and thus that power expands even faster.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday October 13, @08:46PM (7 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday October 13, @08:46PM (#1186772)

          Just as it's been well-documented doing since at least the 50s.

          You mean the 1750s in the U.S. - 1050s in Europe, and 2050s BC in Asia, right?

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
          • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:36PM (6 children)

            by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:36PM (#1186800)

            Sarcasm? Because yeah, all those too, I'm sure. It's been a pretty ubiquitous property of every government ever.

            But I was referring specifically to the 1950s USA - all the government surveillance and undermining of MLK being one of the older and better known examples I could think of off the top of my head.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday October 13, @10:56PM (5 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday October 13, @10:56PM (#1186820)

              The only reason "modern" government has more records of abuse of power is because of the modern difficulty of making information disappear. Nixon's tapes are a great example, but all kinds of recording, copying and transmission technology have conspired to make it easier to "out" secrets.

              I think radical transparency is the best improvement we could possibly seek in all levels of government. I'm not hopeful that it will actually happen before 2050, nor that I will live much past then. Ⓐ

              --
              John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday October 14, @01:36AM (4 children)

                by Immerman (3985) on Thursday October 14, @01:36AM (#1186841)

                No argument here.

                But the abuses in ancient Athens aren't terribly relevant to the abuses today, and a disturbing number of people are unaware, and even unwilling to acknowledge, just how much abuse the modern US government is confirmed to have done. I guess they want to believe that "we" are the good guys, and all that ugly stuff is in the past. Certainly a much more comforting perspective I suppose...

                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday October 14, @02:13AM (3 children)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday October 14, @02:13AM (#1186844)

                  In ancient times they normalized graft and corruption by ensuring that the majority of the powerful people benefited from it. It's not so different today other than the fig leaf of democracy.

                  Sadly, it seems that a big chunk of today's poor feel some allegiance to the rich and powerful and throw their democratic power behind policies that benefit the rich and powerful disproportionately.

                  --
                  John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
                  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Thursday October 14, @02:46AM (2 children)

                    by fustakrakich (6150) on Thursday October 14, @02:46AM (#1186852) Journal

                    Sadly, it seems that a big chunk of today's poor feel some allegiance to the rich and powerful and throw their democratic power behind policies that benefit the rich and powerful disproportionately.

                    Under the belief that they will be eaten last..

                    --
                    Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday October 14, @12:49PM (1 child)

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday October 14, @12:49PM (#1186952)

                      Under the belief that they will be eaten last..

                      I know it is exactly that, at least for some, and that's the saddest bit of cowardice I have ever felt in a supposedly proud country.

                      Poor, and I'm talking lives in a rented caravan in the boonies, shares a heap truck with his wife and can barely afford basic food, clothing, and rent. "I just can't vote for Obama, if he wins boss man says he's gonna have to shut down - and I believe him, and we just can't take any more hardship than we've already got." Of course boss man was lying his ass off and actually expanded the business under Obama...

                      --
                      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
                      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Thursday October 14, @04:01PM

                        by fustakrakich (6150) on Thursday October 14, @04:01PM (#1187001) Journal

                        Everybody has their personal little fiefdom to protect. Ants and elephants are unaware of each other

                        --
                        Ok, we paid the ransom. Do I get my dog back? REDЯUM
    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday October 13, @08:11PM (1 child)

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday October 13, @08:11PM (#1186754) Journal

      I'm pretty sure the phone company knows the location of your POTS 100% of the time. :-)

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:39PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:39PM (#1186803)

        Only when it's plugged in!

        At which point they can also turn on the microphone to listen to everything said around it. One of those infrequently mentioned features of the POTS network, obviously carried over to cell phones as well when they became popular.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 13, @08:30PM (1 child)

      by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 13, @08:30PM (#1186765)

      If you're really trying to hide some of your activities, you'd do well to have a public persona that you don't hide that's completely boring and normal. Like, your cell phone tracking data puts you at work, home, your kids' school, your nearest big-box store, and the nearest grocery store, while you leave the cell phone at home when you go to the political meet-up that was organized offline. And you have a Facebook profile that's cute pictures of your family and such, but doesn't include any discussion at all of political anything. And maybe a Twitter feed that has discussion of some professional issue you study that can't be used for anything nefarious, and also follows a celebrity or two.

      It's a lot easier to keep a few specific things private than it is to keep your entire life private.

      Or, alternately, just have the criminal stuff you're planning be in service to something that your country's law enforcement quietly agrees with: That worked for the people who planned what went down on January 6.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:15PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:15PM (#1186787)

        And never mind the fact that you're now engaging in *exactly* the sort of subterfuge that Freedom of Speech was supposed to make unnecessary. Because pretty much the only way to influence the government democratically is through massive public outcry - which is extremely difficult for citizens to generate from the shadows (that mostly takes psy-op professionals with large budgets).

        Because the sad truth is that government, especially at the federal level, has very little real interest in stopping crime. If they did, then the first thing they would do is arrest most of themselves and their friends. What they *are* interested in, and what freedom of speech and assembly, the right to a fair and speedy jury trial, etc,etc,etc. are all designed to curtail, is in silencing dissenting opinions as they amass ever greater institutional and personal power. That's true of pretty much every government in the history of civilization, and the US government is no exception, having been caught out illegally doing so on numerous occasions throughout the last century, and has almost certainly not been caught many more times.

  • (Score: 2) by dltaylor on Wednesday October 13, @06:30PM (1 child)

    by dltaylor (4693) on Wednesday October 13, @06:30PM (#1186725)

    I have an old HTC that still works for calls and texting (too old for any apps to run). I do have access to cellular data, but it's off 99.9% of the time. On the rare occasion that either cell data or WiFi is enabled, several of the original, unwanted, and unremovable apps start (I force stop them, whenever possible) and the data usage meter climbs steadily when I have done nothing to justify it, not even opened a browser or other app.

    Now that Apple has removed some of the most egregious blocks between my own access to my data through anything other than the Apple cloud, I would consider one if I thought that there was any hope of managing their version of the same exfiltration of data. Yes, I have heard about the supposed controls, but have not seen any evidence for their functionality on the phones of friends. Their data usage meters are always climbing, too, whenever cell data or WiFi are enabled.

    I suspect that if anyone ever does make a truly free and open phone, Apple and Google will use any means, such as having it labelled a "tool for terrorists and pedophiles", to kill it.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday October 13, @07:19PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday October 13, @07:19PM (#1186742)

      Apple and Google will use any means, such as having it labelled a "tool for terrorists and pedophiles", to kill it.

      I have a theory that this is why products like the PinePhone are perpetually in a dysfunctional pre-release state.

      Also, software products like the Qt multimedia decoder suite have been a continuous treadmill of maintenance to keep apps working with for the last 15 years. I mean, in 2006 I coded up a quick video slicer / snippet playback app that worked brilliantly: only on a single OS (iOS), and a couple of iOS updates later it didn't work there either. Then, over the years, I'd revisit the multimedia suite and it was the same story again and again: little cross platform functionality, what did work would work for a year or two until the next OS update. I mean, FFS, I made an MP3 player that ran on Ubuntu 18.04 and Raspbian last year, and the default codec distribution in Ubuntu 20.04 broke it - something about the LibAv Gstreamer codecs in 20.04 just broke .mp3 playback using the vanilla Qt 5.x QAudioOutput methods. Disabling the LibAv codec then allows a "less preferred" codec to take over, and I mean, really, MP3? since 25 years now we should have stable MP3 playing software, but various license angst etc. continues to break things that were working for a short while, again, I suspect making licensed content sellers very happy (and probably so happy that they backchannel funding to those capable of perpetually breaking the toys that allow people to enjoy AV content.)

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @06:40PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @06:40PM (#1186727)

    I almost never have "mobile data" turned on. I can still make/receive calls and text.

    Whenever I (rarely) check email or look at websites on the phone, I immediately launch a VPN client to my VPN server's proxy that blocks obnoxious traffic. I access the Internet from laptops running tied down Linux setups.

    I have an old Android phone. Can one turn off mobile data on the new ones?

    • (Score: 2) by iWantToKeepAnon on Wednesday October 13, @09:15PM (1 child)

      by iWantToKeepAnon (686) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 13, @09:15PM (#1186788) Homepage Journal

      > immediately launch a VPN

      Ah, no now the VPN has all the data on you. So much better.

      --
      "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." -- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @06:28AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @06:28AM (#1186895)

        Note, I wrote "my VPN".

    • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday October 14, @10:21AM (1 child)

      by PiMuNu (3823) on Thursday October 14, @10:21AM (#1186929)

      > I access the Internet from laptops running tied down Linux setups.

      I thought linux was compromised by the TLAs.

      • (Score: 2) by ewk on Thursday October 14, @11:34AM

        by ewk (5923) on Thursday October 14, @11:34AM (#1186939)

        And that is why you run OpenBSD, made to masquerade itself as Linux :-)

        --
        I don't always react, but when I do, I do it on SoylentNews
  • (Score: 4, Informative) by Mojibake Tengu on Wednesday October 13, @06:47PM

    by Mojibake Tengu (8598) on Wednesday October 13, @06:47PM (#1186728) Journal
    --
    The edge of 太玄 cannot be defined, for it is beyond every aspect of design
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by darkfeline on Wednesday October 13, @07:26PM (7 children)

    by darkfeline (1030) on Wednesday October 13, @07:26PM (#1186745) Homepage

    “with little configuration” and "even when you opt out" are mutually exclusive. I doubt anyone is surprised that by default smartphones send analytics data.

    The so-called "system apps" are just the versions of apps that come with the OS ROM. They can't be uninstalled, but they can be disabled or overridden. In fact, it is highly likely that you never run the version of the app that comes with the ROM because it is outdated. The reason they can't be uninstalled is that they come with the OS ROM, and the reason they come with the OS ROM is to ensure basic installs of the OS aren't missing crucial apps that users expect like the phone app (and for vendors to distribute their bloatware unfortunately). However, phones generally update their software during OOBE (out of box experience) so you would be running a downloaded and deleteable Phone App v2.0 rather than the disabled and un-deletable Phone App v1.0 that comes with the ROM.

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @07:49PM (6 children)

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @07:49PM (#1186752)

      Do phones actually use ROM for anything more complicated than microcode? As far as I can tell everything is on flash, and is replaced when the OS is upgraded, which means preinstalled programs should be as easy to remove as on any desktop PC.

      Now *maybe* they install a read-only-mounted "disc-image" for the OS, rather than installing it on the same mutable file system as your personal data... but I haven't seen any evidence of that. In fact, one of the biggest recurring problems I've had on Android is having system logs growing to outrageous sizes (multiple GB) within the "locked" portion of the file system - depriving me of valuable space for my own data unless I either jail-break the phone or completely reinstall the OS.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 13, @08:40PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 13, @08:40PM (#1186771)

        If all is going to plan at least, nobody really knows what's on the ROM except people who have signed NDAs, because it's considered a trade secret, it's copyrighted, and most likely they've tried to patent the tools you'd need to read it so they can only be given to authorized personnel.

        --
        The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @08:51PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @08:51PM (#1186776)

        The base OS image is on a read-only partition. There is also a writable 'overlay' partition that holds software updates and log files. Not all system apps can be disabled, and some that can get re-enabled any time an update comes through. I have an Android phone who's manufacturer cheaped out by going with a Chinese OTA update provider and they forcibly installed the PRC's mandatory spyware, with no way to turn it off, despite that being a contract violation. By the time I figured out what the problem was it was too late to return it, so it sits on a shelf with the battery out.

        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday October 13, @09:25PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday October 13, @09:25PM (#1186793)

          Sounds to me like a prime case to take to small claims court. Regardless of warranty, a clear contract violation puts you in a position to claim restitution, and small claims court is cheap, doesn't require a lawyer (though you might want to briefly consult one beforehand to get your ducks in a row, and make sure you actually have a case), and very, very often results in default judgements against corporations that can't be bothered to spend thousands of dollars of lawyer time over it (and that's just the round-trip flight).

          Or so I've heard. I've never resorted to it myself. IANAL, etc.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @09:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, @09:09PM (#1186784)

        No, there is no physical ROM.
        Yes, the OS lives on a partition mounted read-only in normal use (not during OS updates, obviously), /system. If you have root, you can remount it read-write at any time.

        The idea that logging, which necessarily involves a partition with write access, somehow suggests anything about the presence or absence of a read-only partition, is pretty odd in the first place. There's no reason to suppose they'd be on the same partition.
        But if that logging is depriving you of formerly usable space, then it must be on the same partition as your user data, and is very clearly not on any system partition whose read-only-ness might be in question.

      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Thursday October 14, @12:21AM (1 child)

        by darkfeline (1030) on Thursday October 14, @12:21AM (#1186831) Homepage

        As some ACs have already commented, the OS is on a read-only partition, protected by the bootloader which does have a secure chain of trust to hardware components that include actual ROM chips. In my post I used ROM in the sense of "installing a custom ROM" and not physical ROM chips.

        --
        Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @08:35PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @08:35PM (#1187100)

          so they tell YOU they secured your communication device for you but in reality they secured their evesdropping capabilities on your coms device, lol but sad :(

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @08:31PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, @08:31PM (#1187099)

    the really sad part is that they put all this technically unnecessary surveillance into a essential for daily life device. even worse, is a essential device for communication!
    if it were inside my microwave or lawn mower ...
    best to use android like a public pay phone of old ages. keep a little paper notebook with your numbers handy and type them in and register the android with a email.address but if you do give it to no one but google ...
    all your COMS are bugged!

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