Is it safe? (Google smartphone)

(Hoping this question has a factual answer.)

I’ve replaced a failing Samsung smartphone with a Google Pixel 4 phone. Seems to work well.

But it’s been suggested to me this may be unwise - that Google uses the phone to collect data on users that many people would wish could remain private. I have no specific concerns, just a general sense that Google already knows enough about me.

Is there a reliable source for info on this? (My guess was that Googling the question might not be the best path toward insight.)

Related question: How much better would a phone from another manufacturer be?

Every Android phone is a Google phone. I doubt ones with Google hardware are doing anything that the billions with Google software aren’t doing.

I gave up worrying. Big Brother already knows more about me than I do myself.

Yeah, Android is firmly part of Google’s ecosystem. I can understand being concerned, but there is no difference between Android phones what Google can collect from you. At least they push out regular security updates.

Probably not better at all. You aren’t just having your data collected by your phone company and your phone operating system manufacturer - each app on your phone may collect your data, and each app will often have a version for multiple operating systems and phones.

Here’s a short guide to keeping your data more private from various apps on your phone: 7 data privacy tips for your phone from digital security experts - CNET

Note that, if it really bothers you, you can choose to opt out of most of the data collection on your phone (some of it, you can’t opt out of, because it’s inherent in how a phone functions). Now, it’s within the realm of possibility that Google is cheating these opt-outs and collecting their data anyway, but realistically, they have no need to cheat, because almost nobody chooses to opt out anyway.

I, personally, know about a lot of the sorts of data they collect, and choose not to opt out, because having that data makes Google a better tool which is more useful to people (including, even, myself). And yes, Google gets paid handsomely for that, and I don’t see why that should be a problem, either.

I use an Android phone. I agree with others above that the privacy aspect is the same for all Android phones (actually, your Pixel is a bit better than your previous phone on this: at least you’ve eliminated Samsung’s data tracking from the picture).

I find it’s a good idea, every few months, to use the Google privacy checkup to see what Google knows about me, to erase some of it, and to tweak the settings the way I like. You can do this on a PC or tablet or phone, it’s (typically) all the same Google/GMail account.

At this point, for most users, the only alternative to Android is an Apple iPhone. Apple’s business model relies less on using your data than Google’s does, and most of us are cheering Apple’s refusal to weaken its devices’ encryption for the convenience of law enforcement. But it’s not as airtight as many people think: Apple does share iCloud content with law enforcement, and many of the apps you use on your phone can still compromise your privacy.

The short version, from the top of my head, is that it kind of doesn’t really matter what phone you use. It matters more what permissions you grant.

Google is primarily interested in your time and location data, which they’ll get from “location services”. The best one is GPS, but they can also work out your location through which cellphone towers you’re connected to–but that’s basically good enough to work out what block you’re in (there’s a 40 meter margin of error from this technique, the last time I used it.) There’s an awful lot of data that can be inferred this way.*

Third-party applications will likely ask for permissions, and may or may not report back to a central server with whatever information they’ve gleaned. Some software is extremely egregious about violating your privacy, other software less so. All I can say is that it’s going to vary from app to app, so you need to consider what permissions it’s asking for and whether it really needs it.

You can, at least, retroactively remove permissions from software if you go digging through your menus.

  • Set aside because I have an easy time rambling: Knowing where you are, and when you’re there, is immensely valuable to Google. They already have everything mapped so connecting the dots is easy.

Suppose you leave your house at 6 PM, stop at a fastfood joint, then go to an office tower from 8 PM to 4 AM Monday to Friday, and you do your shopping on weekends at Walmart. They can infer that you’re poor, possibly a bit conservative, and are likely custodial or security staff. Advertisements served by Google will now be targetted with that data set.

Some of this source is me, as I teach programming at a local college and I do a bit of side work in Android development. But here’s also a bit of a cite:

Actually, I think the primary aspect of Location Services, any more, is the set of WiFi networks visible from your location.

The “good” news. Google isn’t as horrible as most phone companies at snarfing up your personal data and selling it to whoever wants it. (Who in turn sell it to others, etc.)

The bad news is that Google is still pretty awful.

It is generally a completely corrupt, terrible world of data grabbing. Think of Google as the Mussolini of phone makers. Not as bad as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.

Get a phone that you can install Lineage OS on. Be very careful installing apps. The fewer the better. Block a ton of app permissions. (Why does a solitaire app need access to contact lists?) Etc.

You could get a post-embargo Huawei.

That way, only the Chinese government will spy on you!

The Washington Post has been running a series of articles under the general heading of “The Secret Life of Your Data”.

Your smart phones spy on you. Your car spies on you. Google Chrome spies on you. Your doorbell spies on you (or if not, your neighbor’s does). Your credit card spies on you.

Here is a post I wrote last December with some links to and quotes from a few of these WaPo articles, which in turn have links to the rest.

A factual answer to the question “is it safe”? :dubious:

Given Samsung’s record of exploding phones, you will probably enjoy better physical safety with a Pixel 4. I replaced my own Galaxy S6 last year after the battery got screaming hot and swelled up substantially. I’m now using a Pixel 3A with no regrets.

If you are using some other definition of “safe,” You’ll have to spell it out for us.