Google apologizes for accidentally changing settings on some people's smartphones without their knowledge or consent

  • On Thursday, some Android smartphone users reported that their battery-saving settings were enabled without their knowledge or consent.
  • Google eventually admitted that it was an experimental feature that was accidentally rolled out to more users than intended.
  • On Saturday, the company apologised for the confusion.
  • The event raises questions about how much control Google has over users’ smartphones without their knowledge or consent.

Google has issued an apology to the smartphone users on Reddit who reported on Thursday that their battery-saving settings were turned on without their knowledge or consent.

Here’s what happened. According to numerous Android owners who posted in the Reddit thread flagging the issue, last week the battery-saving option on Google’s Pixel smartphones, as well as two Essential Phones, was inexplicably turned on, even if the owners had previously turned it off. The affected phones were running the latest version of the Android operating system, Android Pie 9.0.

The battery-saving feature slows down the phone’s performance and prevents the phone from actively searching for notifications for things like emails and updates within apps.

Google Pixel 2 5Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderThe Pixel 2 from Google.

Google commented on the Reddit thread admitting that “This was an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended.” Google apologised in its response to Redditors, saying “Sorry for the confusion.”

Google also rolled back the battery-saving settings to their original settings on the affected phones.

While the rollout of Google’s experimental feature on Android is a seemingly harmless accident, it did raise questions among smartphone owners in the Reddit thread about the kind of control that Google has on phones running Android. The notion that Google could remotely change settings on their smartphones was not well received, especially in instances when the phone’s owner wasn’t notified of the change first.

One Redditor said “the whole ‘we’ll fix it guys’ is not gonna fly on this one. What other changes are being made behind the scenes that may or may not be interfering with users’ lives and or / feeding data to Google?” Another Redditor said “They shouldn’t have had the ability to change a setting like that in my phone without warning.”

Others were seemingly understanding, or they had at least come to peace with the fact that Google could change a smartphone’s settings without notification.

It should be noted that the experimental feature was, indeed, experimental. As such, the feature may not have contained any kind of notification for users. It’s entirely possible that a final version of the feature could contain some kind of option allowing users to opt-in option for the feature.

Business Insider contacted Google regarding what kind of steps it would take to notify users if such a feature was to be rolled out, but has yet to hear back.

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