Just over a year and a half ago, Oracle lobbyists started lugging a large black suitcase through the halls of Congress. It contained a tangle of communications equipment they used to demonstrate to members of Congress and regulators the river of real-time data that flows from Android phones to Google’s advertising servers.
The rig—dubbed “the magic suitcase” by congressional staffers—generated a record of the second-by-second logs that a phone equipped with Google’s operating system sends to the search giant, including users’ location and whether they are on foot or in a vehicle. It quickly had an impact. Sen. Joshua Hawley, a Missouri Republican known for his strong opinions about reining in big tech, was shown the presentation, according to people familiar with the situation. His recent grilling of a senior Google executive during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing echoed the presentation’s findings, which highlight Google’s ability to create intimate behavioral profiles from the troves of personal data Android phones collect.