Multiple Google Pixel phones experienced an automatic activation of the ‘Battery Saver mode’ today when their phone was almost fully charged. Reddit saw a surge of comments on how users were taken by surprise due to the automatic turning on of the Battery Saver mode. The Pixel team responded to these comments clarifying that ‘an internal experiment to test battery saving features was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended.’.
Even though the settings have been reverted back to the default on their end, the amount of control that Google has on a user’s phone without their knowledge is scary.
In most devices, the battery saver mode automatically kicks in when the phone’s charge level reaches a certain threshold. Users can change the percentage at which the battery saver activates. Apparently, Google manipulated the percentage for the users remotely. Reddit saw multiple users responding to Google’s claims of the “mistakenly deployed experiment”
This is not the first time that users have felt a loss of control over Google-operated services. In October 2017, Google locked out users from Google docs for a violation of their TOS. While many users affirmed that their content nowhere violated the TOS, Google responded saying that they “mistakenly blocked access” to some of their users’ files, including Google Docs. This was due to a short-lived bug that incorrectly flagged some files as violating their terms of service (TOS). The bug was soon removed and the team restored affected users access to all affected files.
In both these cases, the changes took place without any prior notification to the users. These ‘accidental mistakes’ on Google’s part raises concerns of the level of control Google has over user devices and data that users aren’t yet aware of.
Incidentally, AndroidPolice also reported yesterday that android handsets running Pie or a Pie beta (like Pixel models, the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, and the OnePlus 6) also experienced the Battery saver issue.