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Oxford Study says iPhone Apps Are No Better for Privacy Than Android

Finally, the never-ending privacy debate between Apple and Android can be put to rest — thanks to the new Oxford study. According to a new Oxford study, titled “Are iPhones Really Better for Privacy?,” both operating systems, iOS, and Android provide the same level of privacy protection. In simpler words, iPhone apps violate your privacy just as much as Android apps do.

The academic paper, titled “Are iPhones Really Better for Privacy?” by the researchers from the University of Oxford, claims that neither operating software does a better job of protecting user privacy than the other, even when Apple claims otherwise. The study paper said, “Overall, we find that neither platform is clearly better than the other for privacy across the dimensions we studied.” To put it simply, the researchers found that there is no clear winner when it comes to user privacy and third-party tracking.

Factors About Apple and Google Considered in the Study

The study was conducted before the release of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, implying that it did not take into consideration the changes Apple made regarding app tracking and privacy. Now, after the release of iOS 14.5, all apps must notify iPhone users of tracking and privacy requirements upon installation. This gives users control over their privacy by choosing to accept or simply deny.

As per the document, the researchers randomly selected 12,000 free apps, which had been updated or released in 2018 or later, for the study from each platform. During the research, they analyzed the code, permissions, and network traffic of these apps. It’s worth noting that each app was run on a real device running either operating system. These include devices such as a first-generation iPhone SE running iOS 14.2 and a Google Nexus 5 running Android 7 Nougat.

Oxford Study: iPhone Apps Are No Better for Privacy Than Android
A snapshot from Oxford research paper

After analyzing the code and network traffic, the researchers found that over 89 percent of all Android apps contained at least one tracking library. In iOS, over 79 percent of apps showed similar results with at least one tracking library in action. In most cases, the tracking library in Android was Google Play Services, and in iOS, it was most likely Apple’s own SKADNetwork, say the researchers.

Another surprising revelation from this study is that, even on Apple devices, Google had a major tracking reach. Of all the Android apps chosen for the study, 90 percent of the apps shared tracking data with companies owned by Google. For iOS, 60 percent of the apps shared tracking data with Google and its companies.

Overall, we can say that Apple’s claims about iOS being more privacy-friendly than Android are empty. While iOS may be ahead of Android in other areas, it’s no better than Android when it comes to the privacy of users’ data.

Punkaj Kumar

An engineer by profession, tech geek, writer, and a passionate blogger. I love to write on topics related to smartphones, computers, and innovative technology.

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