A real life experience proved how software that is constantly spying on mobile phone users has its benefits, too. In a catastrophic situation where you can’t retrieve any data from an old Android phone – and you don’t have backup files – the critical data, including contacts, messages and other bits and pieces can be recovered because Google has kindly saved everything on its servers. This is a story of an extremely satisfied Android phone user who was happy because Google had spied her private life for years.
Recently, one of my neighbors cracked the display glass of her Android phone. The device was completely unusable. Her decision was to buy a new phone that should be exactly the same or as similar as the old product. So, it had to be powered by Android and the product brand had to be the same.
Before shopping for a new product, I tried to rescue data from the broken phone. I hooked up a USB cable from a PC to the phone, hoping to get access to the file system and to find contacts and messages neatly listed in respective directories. I got access to the phone’s files, but there was nothing useful. Sure, photos and downloaded files could have been accessed from the phone’s internal storage, but other than that, it was useless data.
The world of technology wasn’t kind to her when I had to tell that no useful data was accessible. Fortunately, all photos were saved on a memory card. The contents of the card was easy to back up to a PC.
She went shopping, and returned with a product that was brand new, updated model of her old phone.
We started setting up the new phone. At some point, the initialization process asked the user to login to her Google account. She logged in to the same account she had used in the old phone.
Then, the magic happened.
Android asked would she like Google to transfer all her old data, like contacts, messages and applications to the new phone. This act of kindness recovered her faith to the humankind, civilization, and modern technology. Yes, please import all data, was the obvious answer. It only took a few seconds when contacts appeared to the address book. What a moment of joy.
In the next step, Android asked would she like to sync all her data to Google servers. Just like most people (well, probably something like 99% of phone users), she didn’t even read the text, but was about accept it and move on. I stopped her and made sure she understood what it meant. Yes, Google is spying her, and she feels fine about it. In fact, she was extremely happy about it.
She was absolutely certain that she had never set automatic sync of data on for her old phone. She probably didn’t have to, because Android default settings had taken care of data transfer to Google servers for those couple of years she had used her old phone.
Despite Google’s policy to both openly and secretly suck private data from Android devices, a practice that benefits only Google and its business partners, it has one positive side: user data can be recovered and imported to a new device exactly the way it was in the old device.