We’ve come a long way from the Internet of the 90s and early 00s. Not just in terms of technology, capabilities, and culture, but in the attitude most of us take when accessing the ‘net. In those early days most users had a militant drive to keep any personal or identifying information to themselves beyond the occasional (and often completely fictional) a/s/l, and before eBay and Amazon normalized online shopping it was unheard of to even type in a credit card number. On today’s internet we do all of these things with reckless abandon, and to make matters worse most of us carry around a device which not only holds all of our personal information but also reports everything about us, from our browsing habits to our locations, back to databases to be stored indefinitely.
It was always known that both popular mobile operating systems for these devices, iOS and Android, “phone home” or report data about us back to various servers. But just how much the operating systems themselves did was largely a matter of speculation, especially for Apple devices which are doing things that only Apple can really know for sure. While Apple keeps their mysteries to themselves and thus can’t be fully trusted, Android is much more open which paradoxically makes it easier for companies (and malicious users) to spy on users but also makes it easier for those users to secure their privacy on their own. Thanks to this recent privacy report on several different flavors of Android (PDF warning) we know a little bit more on specifically what the system apps are doing, what information they’re gathering and where they’re sending it, and exactly which versions of Android are best for those of us who take privacy seriously.