One of the best things about Android is the sense of community among its users. We’re sharing locations with each other, updating our status in social networks and messaging each other all day long. The sense of community doesn’t end there, though. How many times have you taken time to help a fellow Android user? Whether it’s for simple things like recommending an app or spending hours trying to root a device, I’ve noticed we’re always there for each other. Just how far are you willing to go for the Android community, though? Would you be willing to share all your smartphone habits for Android usage research?
This is exactly what PhD student Daniel Wagner at the University of Cambridge (UK) is doing, and anyone with an Android device can be part of this research. Upon becoming part of this project, the participant would consent to share information about device usage with the University. This information goes quite deep. It includes data like how often the phone is charged, quantity and length of calls/texts, which applications are being used, which networks the device is connected to, usage of WiFi and bluetooth and even the device’s settings.
These are only some of the things the University would have access to. Imagine what else they could find out. Android smartphones are not only powerful, but they hold powerful information. I personally have credit card information, access to all my networks, schedules, calendar info, etc. Needless to say, I’m very careful about who I allow to access my device. In a world of hackers, stalkers and “e-thieves,” many Android users hesitate to even share their location with Google. Is the University of Cambridge doing anything to keep people safe?
We know we can’t provide the participants with a guarantee of anonymity, however we do remove strongly identifying data before publicly releasing it, and we are giving participants information about what we collect and the means to opt-out retroactively. If the data collection concerns or worries you, it is easy to have your data removed permanently.Dr. Alastair BeresfordUniversity of Cambridge
As Dr. Beresford mentions, you’re not exactly imprisoned with the research after you agree to give them your information. In an effort to make participants more comfortable, the University gives them the option to opt out if they feel like surrendering certain data could be harmful in any way. Users have continuous access to all the data the University is recording, and no information is made public until after 3 months’ participating in the research. Before this 3-month deadline, one can simply opt out of the study. All private data would then be removed, along with any record of participation.
What do participants gain from this? There’s no immediate satisfaction, but this study will be made available to everyone at no price. Manufacturers could take this data into consideration when making your next favorite device. Such information would help manufacturers optimize device performance and battery life, based on the way we use smartphones as a whole. Aside from helping the Android community, participants could also improve their device management, as they would be able to access this information at any time. This aids in improving your own battery life, which is a big issue in the Android universe as we all know.
Currently, there are more than one thousand people participating in this study–comparatively few when you consider how many Android devices are being activated daily (about 400,000). Regardless, it’s good to see Android studies are now starting to show up, as they can substantially improve future devices. If you trust the University of Cambridge with your information, sign up at http://deviceanalyzer.cl.cam.ac.uk and become part of this research. Anyone out there willing to get in on the action? Would you guys be comfortable sharing your private info with university students?