Google’s new research on digital wellbeing needs your data to dig deeper into user behavior and reduce the risks of smartphone addiction

Google’s new research on digital wellbeing needs your data to dig deeper into user behavior and reduce the risks of smartphone addiction
  • Digital well-being study will appear on Google’s Health Studies app on May 27.
  • This study is open to adults with Android phones in the US.
  • The Health Studies app was introduced back in December 2020 with the aim to study respiratory illnesses.
The lead researcher for Google Health Studies, Dr Nicholas Allen aims to study how people are actually using smartphones and how it is affecting their well-being. The study will collect the personal data of volunteers. The number of times you unlock your phone and the categories of apps you use are some examples of the data they’ll collect from users.

According to a blog post shared by Google, this research will help companies to build products that support happier and healthier lives, and effective policies aimed at maximizing benefits and minimizing risks. It will also give a better view to researchers into how people are actually using phones, hence giving a deeper insight into users' app usage patterns and behaviour. This also means we can expect more digital well-being features on Android smartphones.

Additionally, participants can also add Fitbit data including physical activity and step count. Google says, collected data will be used under strict and ethical standards and data will be never sold or used for advertising.

Google spokesperson Iz Conroy said, “system uses some of the same APIs similar to Android’s build-in Digital Well-being system which tracks how you use your phone. Collected data is separately used under transparent research protocols.”

Researchers hope this new study will help them understand relationships and other critical things which other research projects have missed including time spent looking at screens affecting your sleep.


Sounds very familiar right?
The process of this research sounds very familiar to what most OEMs and Google itself have been doing over the last couple of years. Almost every smartphone now comes with a digital well-being mode or meditation mode to cut down the screentime of the user. These dedicated modes also aim at your sleep correction and physical health, so what’s new with this research?

The study is said to help in building tools that will enhance mental health and wellbeing among young people.

Technological developments include both benefits and risks. This research is expected to help in identifying which usage patterns are linked with benefits. With answers, technology industries and the research community aim to pursue evidence-based product design which will be aimed at maximizing benefits.

Researchers said they will collect user data (how people use their phones) using passive and continuous sensing technology. With this, the phone will be able to measure building blocks of well-being such as physical activity and sleep.

The digital well-being study will be available on the Google Health Studies app on May 27. The study will take four weeks to complete and U.S residents who use an Android phone can take part in which they will complete daily activities without any assistance.

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