Google shut down Mobile Network Insights in April of 2019, which ran on Android smartphones. It provided data to wireless carriers to help them determine where coverage improvements were needed.
Even though Google didn’t include any identifying criteria and all data was collected with anonymity, the service reportedly ended due to concerns over data privacy. According to statements made by people who had direct information about the situation, Google had rejected requests made by equipment vendors for demographics or other personal information.
Mobile Networks Insight was an opt-in service which allowed sharing the user’s location history and other diagnostic information with Google. However, it didn’t give details on how the information would be used. Users may have been unaware that the data would be provided to their wireless carriers.
Even though specific people stated that data privacy was the reason behind the ending of the service, Google has officially cited a change in product focus as the primary goal in the decision. This statement came from Victoria Keough, a Google spokesperson who spoke with Reuters.
While this change may hamper the information wireless carriers receive, they can still find other services that will provide the necessary data. Facebook even has a service with similar results. It is known as Actionable Insights.
Facebook’s service differs from Google in one important way. It provides personal statistics on the user, including age and gender. However, it doesn’t link that data to a specific person. The information is sent to carriers so they can find trends to help them target marketing more effectively.
No one criticize the change Google made because of the issues with privacy and data. More lawsuits are being filed against companies like Google over privacy or antitrust issues. The Department of Justice is investigating Google over privacy, among other issues. However, information is still being gleaned from users and provided to companies as a way to aid them in improving the relevance in their marketing. Users often are unaware of how this information is being collected and where it’s being used even if they opt-in to the service.