Google Yanks Tool Wireless Carriers Use To Improve Network Coverage Over Privacy Concerns
Erring on the side of caution, Google has reportedly turned off a service it had been offering to wireless carriers to analyze network activity. Wireless carriers are miffed because the tool proved useful in deciding where network coverage was lacking, and in turn helped them decide where to invest in network upgrades.
Companies like Google are under increased scrutiny over existing privacy policies, monetizing user data, and privacy leaks and scandals. For example, Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He also wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post, in which he called for a "more active role for government and regulators."
Google has certainly had its share of privacy concerns over the years. Last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated claims of Google harvesting private data from Android users. And more recently, Google came under criticism over a report that contractors paid by the company to transcribe audio uploaded from Google Home smart speakers had listened to private conversations, including people having sex.
As it pertains to wireless carriers, the service Google yanked is called Mobile Network Insight. It had been in operation since March 2017, and according to Reuters, it basically entailed a map showing signal strengths and connection speeds.
The data was uploaded from devices running Android, though only by users who had opted into sharing location history and usage and diagnostics with Google. Wireless carriers received the data in aggregated form, so there was nothing linking the data to any individual users.
Google shut down the service anyway, over data privacy concerns. Google also apparently had concerns that the wireless carriers were slow to implement network upgrades based on the data its service provided.