Android “Kitkat” Update – New Privacy Features

Android “Kitkat” Update – New Privacy Features

As the new Android OS 4.4 codenamed “KitKat” is now available for the latest Nexus phones (and will be available for Nexus 4, 7, 10 and Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One in the coming weeks), it’s time to take a look at the system’s new privacy features.  Here is what we found:

New Privacy-friendly features

New “Advertising ID”

Prior to the KitKat update, ad networks and advertisers would track users through the device’s “Android ID.”  Typically, apps would pass this ID to ad networks, which would hash it and use it to track users as they interacted with various apps.

The Android ID could only be reset by wiping the entire device. Opting out required the user to visit the third-party ad network’s site and enter in his or her device’s (lengthy) ID.

KitKat contains a new identifier called the “Advertising ID.”  This new ID is subject to a new user setting can be used to opt-out of “behavioral advertising.”  According to Google, when a user activates this Opt-Out setting, the Advertising ID will only be used for contextual advertising, frequency capping, conversion tracking, reporting and security and fraud detection.

Users running Android 2.3 or later can access these new settings via the following steps: in Google Settings, select “Ads” and you will see your Advertising ID.  On this screen you can select the option to “Reset Advertising ID.”  Tap the box labeled “Opt Out of interest-based ads” to opt out.

Android Advertising ID

Google writes that beginning August 1st 2014, “all updates and new apps uploaded to the Play Store must use the advertising ID (when available on a device) in lieu of any other device identifiers for any advertising purposes.”  Opting out of interest based ads through the above method only affects apps – it does not affect tracking or targeting on the browser.

More details from Google’s terms:

  • The status of the “Opt out of Interest-based Advertising” setting must be verified on each access of the ID.
  • The advertising identifier will not be connected to personally-identifiable information or associated with any persistent device identifier (for example: SSAID, MAC address, IMEI, etc.,) without the explicit consent of the user.
  • Upon reset, a new advertising identifier must not be connected to a previous advertising identifier or data derived from a previous advertising identifier without the explicit consent of the user.
  • The collection and use of the advertising identifier and commitment to these terms must be disclosed to users in a legally adequate privacy notification.

Google has released technical details for developers implementing the Advertising ID. Greg Sterling has also written a helpful post for MarketingLand summarizing the changes and providing more detail.

Other Privacy Features

Toggle Location On and Off More Easily

Users will be able to adjust their location settings more conveniently via a new tile in Quick Settings.

Enhanced Caller ID

One new feature of Android 4.4 is that the phone app will match incoming phone calls against Google’s various databases in order to display an automatic caller ID. This feature already works for businesses that use Google Places, but the service will be expanded next year to people as well.  This means that if an incoming caller has verified his or her phone number on their Google Account (and allowed the discovery feature), their name and profile photo will show up on the receiving caller’s phone even if the incoming call is not an existing contact.  Note that users can disable this feature by visiting their Google Account Settings page.

Device management built-in

Lost devices can be found or wiped remotely with the Android Device Manager.

We’re excited to see these features implemented and will be watching for new privacy-related updates from Google as more features are rolled out.

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Privacy Calendar

Oct
21
Tue
6:00 pm Consumer Action’s 43rd Annual Aw... @ Google
Consumer Action’s 43rd Annual Aw... @ Google
Oct 21 @ 6:00 pm – Oct 21 @ 8:00 pm
To mark its 43rd anniversary, Consumer Action’s Annual Awards Reception on October 21, 2014, will celebrate the theme of “Train the Trainer.” Through the power of individual and small group trainings, Consumer Action each year is[...]
Oct
24
Fri
9:00 am Web Privacy & Transparency Confe... @ Princeton University
Web Privacy & Transparency Confe... @ Princeton University
Oct 24 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
On Friday, October 24, 2014, the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University is hosting a public conference on Web Privacy and Transparency. It will explore the quickly emerging area of computer science research that[...]
Oct
29
Wed
4:00 pm Big Data and Privacy: Navigating... @ Schulze Hall
Big Data and Privacy: Navigating... @ Schulze Hall
Oct 29 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The rapid emergence of “big data” has created many benefits and risks for businesses today. As data is collected, stored, analyzed, and deployed for various business purposes, it is particularly important to develop responsible data[...]
Oct
30
Thu
9:00 am The Privacy Act @40: A Celebrati... @ Georgetown Law
The Privacy Act @40: A Celebrati... @ Georgetown Law
Oct 30 @ 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
The Privacy Act @40 A Celebration and Appraisal on the 40th Anniversary of the Privacy Act and the 1974 Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act October 30, 2014 Agenda 9 – 9:15 a.m. Welcome[...]
Nov
7
Fri
all-day George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
George Washington Law Review 201... @ George Washington University Law School
Nov 7 – Nov 8 all-day
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Nov
11
Tue
10:15 am You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
You Are Here: GPS Location Track... @ Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows
Nov 11 @ 10:15 am
EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury will present twice at the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Annual Sunny Climate Seminar. He will give a presentation on government location tracking issues and then participate in a panel[...]
Dec
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all-day IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
IAPP Practical Privacy Series 2014
Dec 2 – Dec 3 all-day
Government and FTC and Consumer Privacy return to Washington, DC. For more information, click here.

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