Google changed the settings on Android phones without their owners' permission

It’s pretty standard for updates to change settings on ANY platform. But i guess my headline wouldn’t bait as many clicks.

Boy howdy are there a lot of new accounts posting on this thread!
Welcome to BoingBoing, comrades!


You can own your phone, it’s called rooting* and the pixel devices are one of the few lines where the manufacturer hands you the tools to do it.

  • Then flashing whatever ROM you want, built from scratch if you prefer and have the time to review every line of code in it for boogy men :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I am new to this (my astrix footnote bullet is quite the egg on face) but used to follow boingboing… before it went South with material like this. Remember offworld?!

Well… it is a good think that google does not have an almost monopoly on smartphones or they could consider privacy to be dead, force whatever maximizes their revenue on their customers and the users would have no choice but accept things like:

  • their location data sold to the highest bidder, it being the stores near your house or the government
  • their mail scanned gathering data about them but also their contacts, even those without smartphones. There is lots of data in the mail: buying patterns, but also hobbies, political a religious affiliation, race and intimate tastes…
  • the applications on the device to be Google’s choice, with automatic updates to force more spying and key applications which could not be deinstalled
  • the phone acting as a credit card, so that all their finances are transparent to anyone willing to buy that data
  • all their search and browsing history to be stored as a means to know their buying habits, but also possibly alerting the authorities in case of deviant behavior. That would not be a risk in a democratic country, of course. Unless a lunatic is elected for president, maybe.

That of course could not happen because people would vote with their wallet and bring their business to other players who would protect their privacy and interests. Oh, wait a minute…:thinking::thinking::thinking:

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I haven’t been able to find an explanation of how the change was made, technically; but it may or may not be the same thing.

It is true that OS updates can fairly obviously change settings (and sometimes have good reason to; if they add new features that require new settings, change the behavior of an existing feature such that a setting cannot be meaningfully preserved, etc.); but it hasn’t bee stated that it was done by OS update(just that it happened to users of a specific version); and Google’s response doesn’t seem to imply that users need to receive an updated update to have the setting changed back:

“This was an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended. We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default.”

If it can be fixed without a “please check for updates to receive the corrected version”, that suggests that they have a more MDM-style mechanism permanently available (Google Play Services probably involved in Seattle way).

Anyone able to find something on how this was rolled out and then back?

Tell that to farmers who own, or think they own John Deere tractors.


Very true, but I think this behavior was explicitly marketed in Android 9. AI driven power management is one of the top features with this release. I don’t think google reached into that users phone, and toggled that setting specifically, I think most likely in this case the power management service was pushed an update that was too aggressive in enabling that setting.

As long as users are tolerant of giving their rights up to companies, and as long as those companies can get away with not disclosing the content of updates, they will always have control over what we do on our devices. The problem is markets suck at being responsive to these kinds of needs, and most people do not understand the issue well enough to lobby government regulation.

So we are doomed, aren’t we? I mean: if I tell my neighbors that they should get a phone which does not spy on them

  • they don’t understand what I am talking about
  • they could not buy one if they wanted

So they get a device which reports their GPS position every 5 minutes and happily take pictures of me with it to post on Facebook. Of course I can use Lineage OS and fdroid on a google free phone, but isn’t that futile when 20 people already tag me on their pictures ?

The farmers also buy Johne Deere tractors because they have no other choice if they want to plough their fields.

The real problem is not the lack of privacy, it is the lack of alternatives.


“Joined 8 minutes ago”



I’ve been reading Boing Boing for at least a decade and this is without a doubt the worst article you have ever published. You’re comparing Apple irrevocably revoking paid movies to a harmless human error that can be corrected with a single tap? You’re claiming Google owns your physical device because they pushed a hotfix to an application?

This is the most idiotic, irresponsible, misleading, uninformed skidmark of an article that has ever dribbled down this otherwise fine website.

We already own our phones. This author just doesn’t know the difference between hardware and software.

I wonder why we suddenly have so many new users registering today and jumping in to defend google.


I can’t speak for others but your answer is right in my post. This terrible article has elicited my ire, and presumably the ire of others as well.

I’m not defending Google. Google made a dumb rookie mistake - they published an experiment to production. It’s an unsightly but harmless error. This terrible Boing Boing article, however, is truly offensive.

Look how angry I am. I’m so mad I said something as stupid as “irrevocably revoking”. That’s how annoyed I am at this article.

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That’s some serious ‘ire’ there, to join an entire forum just to express how disappointed you are.


Likewise to you for responding to me, I guess. We’re writing words about words we disagree with.

False equivalency, there. I didn’t join the site just to complain about it; I’ve been here for some time as an active member of the community

I tend to just roll my eyes at most clickbait or slanted articles that I may encounter randomly and just keep it moving.


Well I don’t know what the procedure was like when you signed up back in the Triassic but I didn’t have to submit a fluid sample to make an account.

Snark aside, I just found this article to be below any site’s journalistic standards, but moreso for Boing Boing whom I have trusted for a long time for tech news.

Not bad for some passive-aggressive burns.

Welcome to BB.

A) Boing Boing is an entertainment blog that mainly focuses on tech-related stuff (and lately, politics); it’s not a news outlet.

B) I’d suggest avoiding most of the internet, then; the quality of journalism in general has declined severely over the last 30 years.

This what happens when ‘revenue streams’ and ‘ad sales’ matter above everything else.