Monday, April 2, 2018

Google And Android Phone Data Mining - A Guest Post

Commentator BM left a very useful analysis in response to my recent post on ways to protect online data. Here it is:

Extreme lack of privacy suspicion back in 2010 or so made me never sign up with Facetrash or Twatter. Thank goodness.

Got a new Android phone recently since I've never bought into Apple's jive talk. The old Samsung G4 croaked. A new G8 is $1300, an utter uselessness to me for the money. Got a Chinese phone from the carrier for $80, all aluminum case - makes the old S4 seem like trash.

Since I use Gmail, I turned off all the usual privacy traps, and all was well. Then, a week later, Google "upgraded" me, unasked, to Android 6 on ye olde wifi. Well, that reset all the permissions to ON. Unasked. Another hour to root through all lines, submenus etc. to turn them off again. Worse than before, because Android 6 has more built-in crud than Android 5.1.

Not content with that, two weeks later, Google delivered me an updated Assistant, unasked for. First I knew of it was a message telling me what my favourite way to work was! Being retired for five years, this was indeed a revelation. So another round of turning off permissions was needed.

But I was not thorough enough. As I prepared to comment here, the "comment as" box had my name staring back at me. So thanks for the alert. It has taken several hours to learn even more of the little cul-de-sacs Google has built in to trap the unwary. Some processes require pressing a Pause button for 5 seconds to opt out. No instructions, of course. It's trial and error. Thank you, Google. And when you're finally successful, a page pops up to advise you of the error of your ways, in the most mincing words imaginable. Squawk, we won't be able to send you directed searches based on your history, whine, you won't get the latest directed ads, blah, blah. So far as I'm concerned, Great.

Google makes you opt out rather than opt in. Bloody data pirates. Anyway, that's why I comment anonymously. Probably only cosmetic, no doubt we all are still tracked anyway, but I feel better.

Speaking of which, contemplating a new car. Vehicles have been a lifelong passion. Mine's 11 years old and has none of these new touchscreen data traps, but she's getting on. Don't ever plan to visit the US ever again. Not one reason to want to go. Got most roads in NS memorized, so navigation not required. Listen to CBC, but hey I'm supposed to consume boughten iTunes music. Need no electronic bells and whistles. Want a good suspension, good steering - driving is serious and I enjoy it. But I do realize that there is no opting out of location tracking on any new car, regardless. We're all stuck.

The car companies are now in the data-mining/flogging business too. Android Auto will latch onto my phone like a leech for targeted ads on the big car screen. I mean, how many bum fast food hamburgers can anyone swallow at one go? Or pizzas? Or dreadful Timmies coffee? The Brave New World of advertising and consumerism, with dope soon being legal to tranquilize us all, even as history is rewritten in 1984 fashion in other ways, something the Americans are already past masters at. I mean, who won WW1 and WW2? America. And who really believes in global warming, soil despoilation and running out of resources? Not Amerika. Under Dems or Elephantz.

Good thing I got to three score years and ten and enjoyed myself before I really rumbled the BS we get fed by the greedy elite every day. This world isn't destined for long, I'm afeared.


  1. Remember when the only intelligence in a car was the person behind the wheel? Today the equivalent is neanderthals like me and our land lines. I lost an old friend last year, an Aussie who had lived in Canada the past half century. He too had a land line only he had no voicemail, not even an answering machine. If you called and he was out, you could try again later. If you didn't try again later whatever you were calling about really wasn't very important. Phil wasn't really a curmudgeon at all or even a Luddite. He just preferred speaking to someone face to face and having a proper conversation - in sentences and paragraphs, back and forth. Conversation is like other skills. The more you do it, the better you are. Give it up, you lose most of it.

    1. Although there seem almost limitless alternatives today, nothing is more important and gratifying (and yes, at times frustrating) as direct human interaction, Mound. As for the telephone, although I have an answering machine, at supper we take the phone off the hook, lest unwanted and disruptive intrusion occur.

  2. .. back in the day.. the way back day
    I mailed letters or phoned
    from somewhere in the world

    And a friend or family agreed
    on dinner location or christening
    or whatever was mebbe to be

    A lot easier today.. I can argue with Mound
    or get shot down in flames.. no prob

    But I don't need to buy a newspaper anymore
    (quoth the raven.. "nevermore")

    Instead I get a fountain of diversified perspectives
    People who are informed like Juan Cole
    or Norm... who invest themselves in accurate knowlege
    or just promote coherent thinking

    Always follow the exemplars..
    dance to the music..

    What did John Prine sing..
    'blow up your tv, eat a lot of peaches'
    It was mysterious code
    that I read like a dog in our woodlot
    as we walked the game trail highway of deer

    1. I like to think there is room for both worlds Sal. For example, while I still subscribe to a print paper, that is only the first step in my reading for the day. The online presences definitely further my understanding of the world around me.

  3. I gave up on landlines in 2010 because we were constantly bothered by scam calls, surveys, what have you. Plus, I am no fan of Bell, the monopoly around here. I scarcely use texting, because my peers phone. When I do get scam texts, the carrier has a forwarding number where they deal with them. Never had a scam text or call from the same number twice, so that works well. Google handles spam the same way. It's an unusual week when I now get spam texts or emails. But my brother who still has a landline gets scam calls all the time.

    But I am indeed an analogue man myself to the extent I can be, and privacy of the old-fashioned kind is important to me. In that regard, I would caution against buying or interacting with the Amazon Alexa or Google "home" speakers, etc. For data gathering, these things have smartphones beat unless you're addicted to Siri or Google Assistant already. They "learn" voices, so that they can deliver more "refined" searches for each member of the household. Thus they know where you live, what you buy, when you're in or out. Just being your helpful little "friend". This is dystopia.

    When they add cameras, well no more tramping around the house in underwear, drinking too much or binging on cookies. No, they're spies, invited by you into your home to monetize your habits as data miners. People seem so enthralled by gadgets, they decide to throw caution to the winds. Avoid. Just as the very cool, composed and striking young woman manager at my cellphone booth said. She's no fool. At all. And was given the Amazon one for Christmas.

    They're out to get you, grandpa, I get ribbed. As the old saying goes, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't trying to get me.


    1. Thanks again for the insights, Bm. With Alexa, etc. becoming increasing presences in the home, your warning is well-timed. As for spam calls, I get them all the time, one of the reasons I take the phone off the hook during the supper hour. But based on my observations of others who have abandoned their landlines, in some ways they seem more enslaved than people like me, in that they always seem to have their phones on and are thus reachable 24/7. Indeed, many even take them to the dinner table, in my mind a serious breach of basic etiquette.

  4. "Remember when the only intelligence in a car was the person behind the wheel? "
    Ah yes, the good old days, I still mourn the loss of my simple old basic pickup truck, you know the one where you could change the radio without going through a menu of 20 buttons! (BUT dont take your eyes off the road eh) We have managed to keep our basic antique cell phone that is just a phone thank christ. All this high tech stuff is touted as an advance, as a fellow old codger I am often not so sure.....

    1. I am with you here, Rural We still have prepaid flip phones, which suit our purposes just fine, although the other day, and I don't know how they got the cellphone number, the Doug Ford campaign robocalled me!

  5. Iam constantly frustrated by menus -- 1,2,3,4. Just let me talk to a person.

    1. Those option shave become a moat to keep out the customer, Owen.