Guide to Android Privacy 2021
For the many businesses with employees that rely on Android mobile devices, the major Android data privacy features below are good topics to consider with the entire company.
Google's data syncing and collection help the tech conglomerate make mobile users' lives easier in many ways, while also collecting enormous amounts of potentially identifying information.
Yet, for businesses, such as those with bring your own device (BYOD) mobile policies, company data must be safeguarded, along with employee user data.
See below to learn about Google’s latest mobile privacy policies and features for Android users — as well as businesses that seek to use their data, including Google:
Android privacy controls
At a basic level, Google is transparent about its Android data privacy policies, though it gives less detail about how all mobile user data is stored and used than it does about user privacy controls.
Google walks users through those controls with its guidelines for updating their privacy. Users can edit their privacy through their account while logged into Google in the Chrome browser. They can also edit their Google privacy settings for major Google apps, such as Search and Assistant.
In their Google account, users have several key privacy controls:
- Enable or disable their web and app activity, location and YouTube histories
- Choose to auto-delete activity once it reaches a certain age (90 days, for instance)
- Delete their search history
Users can also delete and search their activity records. One important note about deleting activity or history: Google states that such deletion removes data from a user's account but that doesn't necessarily mean the data is removed from Google servers.
Android privacy features for Google apps
In early May 2021, Google announced the Google Play Store would begin giving new information about apps to potential buyers using Android devices. This announcement came shortly after Apple launched its privacy labels required for all apps. Developers will be required to submit information about their app's data collection and usage policies and can be penalized by Google if that information is inaccurate.
An example of such privacy information might include whether an app allows users to request data deletion if they uninstall the app at any point. Developers will be asked what data they collect and how they use it — such as personalizing content.
For mobile gaming, users can choose whether they want to automatically sign in to games, and they can edit who can view their game activity. Google Play reminds users that game developers receive data tied to their game profile name.
Users also have the option to make their profile discoverable through an email search or visible to contacts who know their email address.
In Chrome, Google's default web browser, Android users can enable incognito mode for their searches, YouTube history and Maps, and the data will not be saved to their Google account. They can also delete previous search, maps and Google Assistant data.
Users can block cookies on Chrome, though that can affect the ability to access certain web pages. Users can also choose to clear their cookies and website browsing data after every closed Chrome session, so they don't receive any targeted ads from that session.
Under the privacy tab, there is also an option to "allow recently closed sites to finish sending & receiving data," which must be turned off to stop web apps from running in the background.
Site Permissions show which background applications on an Android can be accessed by sites while you're on them. If given permission, these sites can roam through applications. Users can require sites to ask first.
Android users can enable incognito mode for Maps and disable or enable location services. Location history does help with more accurate and timely traffic, weather and search results, and it affects advertising accuracy as well.
Google states that its Photos app does not sell photo content or personal data. Photos also doesn't "make general purpose facial recognition technology commercially available." Android users can disable face groups and labels in their Photos, which, based on Google's phrasing, seems to delete them from the account entirely.
Google Pay stores data about cards and transactions, and Google says it doesn't sell user transaction history or data to third parties. Android users can delete transaction history from their account, though Google clarifies that they may have to store some of the data for services and legal purposes.
Users have the choice to opt in to data collection for personalized offers. Google can track purchases on Google Pay, view where you purchase from and see your personal connections.
When describing privacy controls for Nest, Google says, "We will never sell your personal information to anyone." Nest, Google's smart home platform, has an indicator light that turns on when the camera is recording. Users can delete their video footage from their Google Account. Google also says it only sends sensor data to third parties with permission from the user.
Google has a Sensor Guide that explains what sensor data it gathers and how the data is used. The company indicates that sensor data is not used for ad personalization.
Android Auto is a system for connecting smartphones and applications to the screen in a car. It allows users to play music, use Google Assistant and navigate in their vehicle, through their phone. The first time users sync their phone to their car using Android Auto, they can opt in or out of permitting Google to track their GPS location and current vehicle gear, such as park or drive.
Google Assistant connects to the arsenal of Google apps to help create a more personalized and intelligent experience for users. For example, it might access existing data in another app, such as Gmail, to remind an Android user of an online order that is now waiting for them and recorded by their smart home sensors.
Users can enable and disable Google Assistant's synchronization with other apps by disabling web and app activity within the assistant. They can also turn off ad personalization that's based on Google Assistant interactions.
To learn about Apple's data privacy permissions for mobile device users, read Guide to iOS Privacy 2021.