Android System Intelligence, definitions 1 and 2


I updated my phone recently, and soon afterward I noticed an available update from something called “Android System Intelligence, which I hadn’t ever heard of before. I certainly hadn’t installed it, and I hadn’t seen any updates for it before despite having used Android phones since Gingerbread was a thing.

There’s a relatively innocent explanation for why I hadn’t seen it before: I had, under the name “Device Personalization Services”. I’ve seen that name but really haven’t looked into it before, because I have no interest in “device personalization” AKA data mining and consumer manipulation, but it’s a legit “system component.”

Here’s what it does:

Android System Intelligence is a system component which powers intelligent features across Android, whilst keeping your data private:

  • Live Caption, which automatically captions media playing on your Pixel.
  • Screen Attention, which prevents the screen from turning off if you are looking at it, without having to touch it.
  • Improved Copy and Paste that makes it easier to move text from one app to another.
  • App Predictions in the launcher, which suggest the app you may need next.
  • Smart Actions in Notifications, which adds action buttons to notifications which let you see directions to a place, track a package, add a contact and more.
  • Smart Text Selection across the system, which makes it easier to select and act on text; for instance, you can long-click on an address to select it and tap to see directions to it.
  • Linkifying of text in apps.

Android System Intelligence uses system permissions to provide smart predictions. For instance, it has permission to see your contacts so that it can show you suggestions to call a frequent contact. You can learn more about Android System Intelligence, the features it provides and how it uses and protects your data at g.co/device-personalization-privacy

“Keeping your data private.” Suuuuuure.

Oh, and I don’t have a Pixel. I have a Note 10. I guess it’s rolling out to the rest of the Android “ecosystem” now.

But wait, what’s this, a Google app going out of its way to justify its permissions? That’s somewhat unusual, but I had already clicked on the Permissions link. I do pay attention to that sort of thing, and since I was there anyway I might as well look under that rock –

SMS

  • read your text messages (SMS or MMS)

Wi-Fi connection information

  • view Wi-Fi connections

Calendar

  • read calendar events plus confidential information

Camera

  • take pictures and videos

Microphone

  • record audio

Identity

  • find accounts on the device

Location

  • precise location (GPS and network-based)
  • approximate location (network-based)

Phone

  • modify phone state
  • read call log
  • directly call phone numbers
  • read phone status and identity

Contacts

  • read your contacts
  • find accounts on the device

Device ID & call information

  • read phone status and identity

Photos/Media/Files

  • read the contents of your USB storage

Storage

  • read the contents of your USB storage

Other

  • Hotword detection
  • capture audio output
  • provide an in-call user experience
  • Audio Routing
  • update component usage statistics
  • modify battery statistics
  • modify secure system settings
  • Modify Google service configuration
  • change your audio settings
  • control vibration
  • access Bluetooth settings
  • full network access
  • read Google service configuration
  • run at startup
  • pair with Bluetooth devices
  • set an alarm
  • prevent device from sleeping
  • draw over other apps
  • view network connections

That isn’t a permissions list. It’s a permissions novella. It’s long enough that I went to an Android developers’ reference page to see if they’d actually missed any.

I think I know why Google renamed the app now, because that isn’t device personalization, it’s intelligence:

1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason

also : the skilled use of reason

(2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests)

[…]

2 a : information, news

b : information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or an area also : an agency engaged in obtaining such information

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