My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How smartphone Apps collect MAC address, IMEI and Android ID to sell to Advertisers

Friday, February 15, 2019

How smartphone Apps collect MAC address, IMEI and Android ID to sell to Advertisers

A new day is coming for users of Social Media and companies that profit from our data.

California has plans to implement European-style privacy law that would allow customer to know what Social Media comapneis and Websites know about them a noted in the article “California Governor Wants Users To Profit From Online Data”, Published Thursday February 14, 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

The coming law would require that companies:

1.      Tell customers upon request what personal data they have collected and why
2.      Which categories of third parties have received it
3.      Allow consumers to delete their information and not sell it

But...what if you wanted a slice of the action? After all, those free social media services are paid for by these Silicon Valley tech giants collecting your why can you not get a cut of the profit?

Apps and device signatures - Third party advertisers making billions from your data

This seems to be the arguement of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is seeking to do just that as noted in his first State of the State speech Tuesday January 12th 2019, quote: “Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetising our personal data have a duty to protect it...... California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that send targeted ads to users. This data is often collected from apps that collect the data even when you opt out of their advertising and access to your Smartphone as noted in “These Android apps have been tracking you, even when you say stop”, published February 14 2019 by Laura Hautala, CNET.

Google Logo

According to research from the International Computer Science Institute, some 17,000 Android apps are collecting your Smartphone’s unique device signatures:

1.      MAC address
2.      IMEI
3.      Android ID

This data allows these apps to create a permanent record of the activity on your device. They can then resell this data to third party advertisers who can continuously send you advertising. By right, they are only allowed by Google to use the Advertising ID assigned to developers for their apps.

But according to research from the International Computer Science Institute, less than 30% of these 17,000 Android apps surveyed follow Google's best practices for developers.

You can clear your Advertising ID in much the same way you can clear browser cookies as explained in my blog article entitled “How to Delete Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera browser history on an iPhone”. 

Clearing this Advertising ID could stop advertisers from building up data about you over time. But you can't reset other identifiers, like the MAC address and IMEI.

How smartphone data is used by Advertisers - MAC address, IMEI and Android ID track you forever

The MAC (media access control) address is a unique identifier assigned to a network interface controller (NIC) in your Smartphone.

It is used for communications at the data link layer of a network segment for internet connections with devices such as Wi-Fi routers. MAC addresses are used as a network address for most IEEE 802 network technologies, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Google Logo

The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15- or 17-digit code that uniquely identifies mobile phone sets. The IMEI code can enable a GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service) network to block a stolen phone from initiating calls. 

The Android ID can be reset, but only if you run a factory reset of your device to erase data before you resell a Smartphone as described in my blog article entitled “How to erase personal information from your Android smartphone before selling”.

If this is even a bit true, advertising networks can send you advertising as long as you have the phone. So ultimately something has to give; either you accept giving up your privacy for free services while Silicon Valley makes billions from studying your personal data or they share the profits with the “Free” services have to be financed one way or the other.

Quitting your Smartphone may be good for you in the long run to combat Smartphone addiction as explained in my blog article entitled “How to deal with Smartphone Addiction as Wearables trend indicates it is getting worse”.....but I doubt you'll be doing that anytime soon....

No comments: