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My question is whether there is any security feature built-in to the "open-source core" of android to prevent even pre-installed manufacturer apps(for some of which there is no way to revoke permissions as with other apps (do pre-installed manufacturer apps even need the user to grant it permissions? )) from snooping much more than just IMEI or wifi MAC address, and instead be able to access and send the entire file-system contents like user downloaded documents, image files, plain-text files etc.?

Premise: I recently read this article in Techradar regarding this study claiming that Android manufacturers' pre-installed apps send data such as IMEI, hardware serial numbers, WiFi MAC address back to the manufacturers' servers. My understanding is that all the core functions of android are opensource and that manufacturers do not change this core much and all the snooping is done through manufacturer pre-installed software that is separate from this opensource android core. Am I right?

I have no background knowledge in security features or software and programming in general. I am just asking this as a layman android user. Kindly correct me if there is something that makes this question irrelevant in the first place.

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  • The phone manufacturer does install the system. They can do anything they want, including modifying the Android system - even I am pretty sure that they have no reason to do that. But they can install their apps with admin privileges or could add kernel modules to easy their own snooping. The key question is whether they want to do that, or more exactly what data they are interested in. IMHO Google is much more interested in my personnal data (it is the key of their business) than my phone manufacturer (the key of their business is making and selling phones). Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 7:23
  • @SergeBallesta Unless you have a google phone :)
    – RiggsFolly
    Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 12:39

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manufacturers do not change this core much

It does not take "much" to completely compromise any device. The phone manufacturer has access to as much as they need. Whether they actually do it... that's hard to tell.

If you have secrets, and you save them on a device you did not install yourself, best consider them known to whoever had enough privileges to install the core system functionality. They could know them. Whether they actually do or whether they care enough for your secrets is something we cannot tell. But they could.

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