Oxford Study: iPhone App Privacy Not Superior to Android, Equal Amounts of User Tracking Seen on Both Platforms

The article has some good points, and if you like that then the PDF is going to be interesting too.

Article: https://www.cpomagazine.com/cyber-security/oxford-study-iphone-app-privacy-not-superior-to-android-equal-amounts-of-user-tracking-seen-on-both-platforms/amp/

Study PDF: https://arxiv.org/abs/2109.13722

In this paper, we present a study of 24k Android and iOS apps from 2020 along several dimensions relating to user privacy. We find that third-party tracking and the sharing of unique user identifiers was widespread in apps from both ecosystems, even in apps aimed at children. In the children’s category, iOS apps used much fewer advertising-related tracking than their Android counterparts, but could more often access children’s location (by a factor of 7).

Across all studied apps, our study highlights widespread potential violations of US, EU and UK privacy law, including:

  1. The use of third-party tracking without user consent
  2. The lack of parental consent before sharing PII with third-parties in children’s apps
  3. The non-data-minimising configuration of tracking libraries
  4. The sending of personal data to countries without an adequate level of data protection
  5. The continued absence of transparency around tracking, partly due to design decisions by Apple and Google.

Overall, we find that neither platform is clearly better than the other for privacy across the dimensions we studied.


I’m not able to daily drive a PinePhone, and while I have a Google free “dumb” phone it won’t be supported once my carrier turns off non-VoLTE device access. While I wait for linux based options to improve I’ve gone back to Android using a mix of Graphene OS or https://lemmy.ml/post/54596 depending on my device.

I jumped over to iPhone a few times, but mainly after study’s such as this: https://www.scss.tcd.ie/doug.leith/apple_google.pdf came around. I never stayed long, but it’s interesting to see more light be shed on tracking in general. It definitely makes me re-consider device choices (though it doesn’t seem like a great time to try and buy new electronics at present).

Perfect example of the death of science being perpetuated by the media. At least in the University of Edinburgh study which was reported last week, buried down deep in study the mention the following:

Apart from Google’s GApps, no third-party system apps on the LineageOS handset were observed to perform data collection. On /e/OS, we observed no data collection by system apps.

That said the Oxford study doesn’t even mention LineageOS nor /e/OS.

OBVIOUSLY, you have no privacy w/ GApps installed but no mention that ZERO de-Googled phones running LineageOS are running GApps since they are running MicroG and Aurora Store APK for Android that allows you to download APKs without needing a Google Play account.

Yet, the researches falsely claim the following:

On LineageOS it is necessary to install GApps to use the Google Play store, but this is not necessary with /e/OS (which uses the open-source MicroG re-implementation of Google Play Services and the Google Play app).

Makes one wonder if this research was funded by /e/OS! #FollowThe$$$

At least ONE tech news site revised their post regarding the Edinburgh study w/ a rebuttal from Lineage that pointed out the points above about LineageOS, but now out of the dozens of articles about this study, I can’t even find that one revised article! SMH

I don’t really mind not including alternatives in the Oxford Study, I was happy to get a deeper dive on iOS (especially with their recent public privacy stumbles) and think that it’s a good start to make people think about what they’re agreeing to.

That said I do think it’s a good time to offer up alternatives, especially since /e/ has a US webstore and it’s getting easier to just buy a working device with minimal setup.

I havent looked into things deep enough to consider a smear/disinformation/bias campsign against alternatives, but appreciate your link and take all the same.

For me I struggle with having a good camera and having an more private OS - I think I’ve found a solution (Sony ZV-1) but need to balance what Im OK with privacy wise with budget and ease of use is something Ive gone too far one way or the other on before and have spent far too much money and time on so Im cautious.

I have a BIG problem considering their 1000% FALSE conclusion w/o even a mention or footnote regarding Android Open Source Project (AOSP), microG, LineageOS, /e/OS, etc., especially with the release of the University of Edinburgh research a week earlier that at least mentioned some of the points:

> While it has been argued that the choice of smartphone architecture might protect user privacy, no clear winner between iOS and Android emerges from our analysis.

i.e. it’s piss-poor research at best!

Not sure of your camera requirements, but if you want a proven de-googled Pixel 4/4a/4XL/5, OnePlus 7 Pro (48 MP camera), or Moto G7, then I highly recommend picking one up from Rob Braxman’s Store.

Also, I’d recommend immersing yourself in Rob Braxman’s Tech’s Privacy Phones playlist. Below are some relevant must views on the topic.

Why You should Dump Your Apple and Google Phone - Top 5 Reasons!

Android without Google? How is that Possible?

Android without Google Services - Does it work?

What it’s like to use a De-Googled phone in real life? (Q&A of concerns)

Fall 2021 New Phone Technology! Significant Privacy Changes?

I try to limit my sphere of caring, but I can see where it could be taken like you point out. I have dived deep into the privacy rabbit hole before, and attempt to limit some of it so I don’t go too far.

In the US I didnt see /e/ picking up mindshare until somewhat recently, and hope that they continue to push more device options than the Teracube 2 through their USA storefront.

I don’t use MicroG, though I do like a few apps from the Aurora Store that run just fine without and Google hooks so /e/ is pretty appealing.

I like Braxman, I have a GrapheneOS device and if I was getting phones for family would consider buying from him if I didnt want to setup something myself/they wanted a place to purchase from. I like that his videos are on Odysee, it made it easier to check.

I considered getting a PinePhone running GrapheneOS but I was looking for a viable full-featured Samsung replacement, but until Librem 5 USA can actually be delivered (years?), a de-Googled (i.e. microG + F-Droid + Aurora) Pixel 4/4a/4XL/5 is currently the best option, IMHO.

Odysee is fine but it doesn’t have his Friday night live @8 pm PST 90 min videos, and the videos it does have are not grouped by playlist.

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