Tech giant Google has admitted to changing Android phone settings remotely without user permission, a move considered by experts to be bad for “transparency and consent.”
The BBC reports that Silicon Valley Master of the Universe Google has admitted to remotely activating the “battery saver” function on many users’ Android phones. The battery saver function is designed to allow the phone to operate at a lower performance while preserving battery life and in some cases is automatically enabled when a phone goes below a certain battery level. According to multiple people describing the incident, the battery saver was enabled with a full or nearly full battery.
In a post to Reddit, a Google spokesperson explained that the sudden enabling of the feature was part of an internal test update to the Android operating system which was accidentally rolled out publicly.
“This was an internal experiment to test battery-saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended,” the company said in a Reddit comment. “We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default. Please configure to your liking. Sorry for the confusion.”
The majority of phones affected were reported to be Google Pixel devices, but there were reports of other brands of phones having the battery saver feature suddenly enabled. Kate Bevan, the editor of Which? Computing magazine, commented on Google’s ability to roll out these changes saying:
“I noticed the other day that suddenly my battery saver was on and I was a bit puzzled by it. I don’t want any app or operating system reversing decisions I’ve made — unless I know why they are doing it,” said Bevan. “It’s about transparency and consent — it may well be a good idea that a change is being made but I still want to know why.”