Google has announced that the Android privacy update in 4.3 was actually a mistake. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now criticized the company, as there are limits to the security and privacy for users when they download apps to their devices. The newest update 4.4.2 removed the privacy permission without informing users.
When apps are downloaded, a screen appears informing a user of the permissions that the app needs to be installed and run. When Android 4.3 was released, users found that they had the opportunity to not grant permission and still download the apps. This protected privacy for many users, but it also had the potential to break the apps, according to the tech giant.
Google informed the EFF that disabling permissions could lead to the app not working as it should. It was still an experiment that had not been fully tested. However, the EFF claimed that the function was working perfectly, while admitting that there were chances the apps would break. This would only happen if a person disabled something that the Android app definitely needed.
The tech company has been under fire for not offering privacy options for users. Without being to turn off the permissions, companies would have access to a user’s address book, location, and even their phone’s IMEI number. Apple Inc. were under fire for the same problem until a few updates ago when apps finally started asking for permission, and users could decline, especially when it came to location.
The Android privacy update that according to Google was a mistake was added deep into the system. Most users would not have even realized that it was there, without doing some research. It required a tool such as App Ops Launcher to enable the ability to deny permissions. With the App Ops Launcher, it was possible to go into the settings and turn each permission on and off individually.
App creators have also found themselves facing complaints and scrutiny over the data collected. Brightest Flashlight was one free app where location and other sensitive information of users was being collected without the user’s knowledge. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlighted the issue and forced the flashlight app creators to make changes to stop that from happening.
The EFF is asking Google to reconsider the privacy update. It could be that more work needs going to prevent users disabling the necessary permissions. There is no doubt that there are problems with the feature the way that it stands. However, completely removing it gives the impression that the Android makers do not care about the protection and security of their users.
Those who have not opted for the current update and are still using Android 4.3 or 4.4 will have access to the privacy feature, Apps Ops. This will prevent apps from collecting the information that a user does not want them to, although it is worth thinking about whether the app needs that information to run. It is unknown whether Google will release the Android privacy update again, but for now it was just a mistake according to the company.
By Alexandria Ingham