Google admits it collects telephony log information, doesn’t specify which exactly

Google has conceded that it indeed saves phone data from Android users using Google apps and services. Google did not specify when exactly and to what extend this happens, leaving important questions unanswered.

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Google’s privacy statement implies the corporation saves the phone numbers, time and duration of calls whenever calls are made with Android devices, as mobilsicher.de had reported in more detail Friday.

In spite of several requests during reporting for that origonal story by mobilsicher.de, the company did not comment, neither denying nor confirming the allegations. On Saturday, for the first time, a Google representative issued a written statement.

„Comparing Google’s practice with a private data retention is not only inappropriate, but flat out wrong“, so the statement (translated form German). However, Google conceded that it does save connection data from phone calls in certain circumstances.

Google: we only save telephony logs when Google’s apps are used

According to the statement, „we only save information from phone calls when Google’s apps and services are used“. This specification does not significantly reduce the number of users potentially affected, as it is almost impossible to use an Android device without using Google’s apps or services.

„Google Caller-ID“ is one example for a function saving connection data, the corporation stated.

This feature is available on Nexus and Android One devices and has been an integral part of the Telephone-App since Android version 4.4 (Kitkat). It identifies the phone numbers of certain callers, even when they are not saved in the contact list of the device. The function can be disabled.

But there are more cases in which telephony metadata might be collected: „Another example for a service, where data about phone calls will be saved, is Google Voice. It is also feasible that developers of an independent phone app will integrate a Google service via an API“, Google’s representative writes in his statement.

Which APIs this refers to and how to find out if the phone app of one’s own device connects to such APIs was not clarified.

Moreover, the question whether one’s own device uses Google’s phone app or the app of a different provider is hard to find out for an average user.

Important questions remain unanswered

It remains unknown how long telephony data is saved on Google’s servers, in which country it is stored, whether it is shared with third parties or combined with data Google collects from other sources.

All in all, the suspicion remains that Google may save phone connection data of Android users and users who call Android devices, on a large scale.

Translated from German by: Annette Leyßner

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