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I have installed Google's apps to view online spreadsheets on a new iOS device. I then receive an email from Google: "Your new Device doesn't have the latest Google apps".

While I understand and expect that the data on Google Docs and Sheets is far from private, it is also well within reason for Google to record what I download from them and what I do not. If the Google app realizes I have a new device, it makes me wonder what else it is accessing.

How do I assess and measure how much privacy has been ceded to Google? For example, I have not installed Google Maps, because I find it creepy in an Orwellian sense, that it records where you have been.

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    If you're connected, there is no privacy! 😱 – user3439894 May 15 at 13:13
  • @user3439894 That is unhelpful hyperbole. – pseudon May 16 at 14:15
  • If you log into Google on the web and go into your Account settings, you can view and download much of the information (or at least kinds of information) that Google has collected on you, albeit buried under many paths and layers of UI. What it won't show you is deeper inferences Google has made based on data it has collected and aggregated about you. – pseudon May 16 at 14:21
  • @pseudon Not really, whilst the comment you have dismissed may not necessarily be 100% correct it is a valid point – Benj May 19 at 20:12
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After you install any of the apps published by Google on your iPhone, it can determine whether you have the other Google apps installed on your iPhone by using the following API call available in iOS:

Based on this, it could be determined what apps you do not have installed on your iPhone, and Google can suggest you to install them.

An iOS app can be assigned a custom URL scheme by it's developer. It's using URL scheme that your iPhone is able to directly launch say for e.g. YouTube or Google Maps app if link for the same is tapped in any of the other apps.

This specific instance isn't necessarily a privacy violation as Google is simply using one of the APIs made available by Apple. When it comes to apps, Google is just another 3rd-party app publisher on iOS and has to adhere to same privacy restrictions like every other developer.

P.S.: While it could be argued that Google's privacy stance is not as strong as Apple, they are bound to adhere to restrictions imposed by Apple as they are no different from other 3rd-party app developers for iOS and generally do not get any elevated privileges.

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The best way to assess how much privacy you've ceded to Google is to review their privacy policy. No other site or company will provide you a more accurate look at what Google does with your info than Google itself.

Google can know what other Google apps you have installed on your device based on assigning your device a unique key and then having every other Google app look for that key and report back. If the only app that's reported back is their spreadsheet app then that's how they know. This doesn't necessarily mean that Google knows every app on your device, though.

Remember that any other app that uses Google's services, such as login ability or analytics, means that those apps are also reporting back to Google.

As far as how to measure the privacy you've ceded, I don't think that's possible. Regardless of what the measurement shows, when you visit a new web page or add/remove an app, that measurement could change.

  • App makers use the Vendor ID to link all of their apps on a single device. This is distinct from the Advertising ID (which is shared across different vendors' apps but is easier to turn off or change). The Vendor ID can only be reset by deleting every app from that vendor. – pseudon May 16 at 14:18
  • Not necessarily. Apps from a single company can also use the UUID and store that on their server. That number can be accessed using Apple-provided API's. UUID remains the same even if the user deletes all apps from the same company, like Google. – fsb May 16 at 15:07
  • UUID itself was deprecated and replaced with DeviceCheck. Knowing this is not a developer SE site, I used the common name instead of the API name. Regardless, it doesn't change the answer. – fsb May 16 at 15:10
  • Yes, I used the wrong acronym, too. Using DeviceCheck, the identifier remains the same if the user deletes all apps from the developer. – fsb May 16 at 15:16
  • @pseudon I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish by all these comments. If you want to edit my answer, please feel free to propose something. Google can use DeviceCheck in combination with their own login info to identify apps on a device as well as the specific user. It's the combination of both approaches. – fsb May 16 at 15:21

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