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Google CEO Sundar Pichai defends data collection on Android devices

Alyssa Clementi

In a testimony before the House Judiciary committee, Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai stated Android users have a “good understanding” of exactly how much data Google collects from Android devices. During the hearing, entitled “Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices”, Pichai said Android users consent to data collection when they agree to use the Android mobile operating system. In Google’s defense, Pichai claims Android devices have easily-operated privacy settings, giving users complete control over how much information they make public.

In his written testimony to the House Judiciary committee, Pichai said, “We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards.”

Pichai claims the millions of Android users are able to make sense of the user agreements in full, and clearly navigate through the device’s privacy settings, establishing a range of restriction on collected data. Pichai reiterated how important it was to Google that “average users are able to understand” the Android OS user agreement.

Responding to a privacy-related question from chairman of the House Judiciary committee Bob Goodlatte, Pichai said: “For Google services, you have a choice of what information is collected, and we make it transparent.”

“We actually…remind users to do a privacy checkup, and we make it very obvious every month. In fact, in the last 28 days, 160m users went to their My Account settings, where they can clearly see what information we have — we actually show it back to them. We give clear toggles, by category, where they can decide whether that information is collected, stored, or — more importantly — if they decide to stop using it, we work hard to make it possible for users to take their data with them,” Pichai said.

Considering over seven of Google’s products have one billion or more users, legality issues pertaining to privacy breach and data collection have started surfacing. Although Pichai says both Google and Android users have the option to turn off their tracking and data collection services at any time, it was found that Google had continued to track users’ location when Location History had been opted out of.
Towards the end of the hearing, the chief executive officer was asked if Google had plans to further improve the accessibility of device options and develop a more straightforward approach to optimizing privacy settings. Pichai recognized that the situation was “complex”.

“We want to simplify it and make it easier for average users to navigate these settings,” he said. “It’s something we are working on.”

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