Back in April, Google silently shut down its “Mobile Network Insights” service, which provided carriers with data about network performance in different locations as provided by Android handsets. According to an exclusive report from Reuters, Google killed the service as a result of concerns regarding user data privacy, even though the information that was given to carriers was ostensibly stripped of identifying information.
Privacy was reportedly Google’s chief concern, according to “four people with direct knowledge of the matter” who spoke to Reuters. But the data given to carriers was anonymized and only gathered from users who explicitly opted into sharing location history and usage/diagnostic information during the setup process, with this particular use reportedly spelled out in the terms and conditions for the setting — though the recipient of that data being carriers was not mentioned.
Google also said data which was shared did not include user demographics or app usage, and it rejected requests to provide equipment vendors with any of the data.
The Mobile Network Insights service was started by Google just recently in 2017. In essence, the service provided carriers with a map showing relative geographic performance, giving them clear information for where to shore up service. The data was provided to carriers for free (though an explicit list of participating wireless providers isn’t available) and included both a carrier’s own performance for an area, as well as that of its competitors.
Google isn’t the only company to collect and distribute data like this, many speed test or signal strength measurement applications and services share data gathered about performance and location, and Facebook reportedly has a similar service.
Google confirmed the cancellation of the service, though with a different justification regarding changing “product policies” as the motivation behind stopping the program. Reportedly, it did not provide participating carriers with an explanation or reason for the cancellation.