Study of Google data collection comes amid increased scrutiny over digital privacy

Google may not know whether you’ve been bad or good but it knows when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake. If you use an Android device with the Chrome browser running, the tech giant knows whether you are traveling by foot or car, where you shop, how often you use your Starbucks app and when you’ve made a doctor’s appointment.

Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering Douglas C. Schmidt studied Google’s data collection practices under a “day in the life” scenario of an Android phone user. The 55-page study, commissioned by Digital Content Next, a trade group representing digital publishers, also detailed data mining over a 24-hour period from an idle Android phone with Chrome running in the background.

The stationary smartphone running Google’s Android operating system and Chrome sent data to the company’s servers an average of 14 times an hour, 24 hours a day.

“These products are able to collect user data through a variety of techniques that may not be easily graspable by a general user,” Schmidt concluded in the paper, released in August 2018. “A major part of Google’s data collection occurs while a user is not directly engaged with any of its products.”