Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Dec 2013 15:40 UTC
Google

Yesterday, we published a blog post lauding an extremely important app privacy feature that was added in Android 4.3. That feature allows users to install apps while preventing the app from collecting sensitive data like the user's location or address book.

After we published the post, several people contacted us to say that the feature had actually been removed in Android 4.4.2, which was released earlier this week. Today, we installed that update to our test device, and can confirm that the App Ops privacy feature that we were excited about yesterday is in fact now gone.

If there's one thing that needs some serious love in Android, it's the application permissions. I carefully look at them every time I install an application, but I'm guessing most people don't. While there's only so much stupidity technology can solve, Android's application permissions are, indeed, quite overwhelming at times. I'm not a particular fan of modal dialogs every time an application needs permission for something (the iOS way) either, so I'm not sure how this can be addressed in a user-friendly way.

App Ops seemed like a decent compromise that allowed for lots of finetuning of permissions, per application. Luckily, I'm using a custom ROM that re-enables it, Google be damned. Google claims App Ops may break some applications - well, that's not really any of my concern. If an application breaks because I do not give it permission to find out if I'm on the toilet or not - there's always an uninstall button.

So, Google better have some serious improvement in mind for application permissions, or they're just making sure regular users don't get into the habit of blocking Google's data collection. I hope the former, but I'm reasonably sure it's the latter.

Thread beginning with comment 578589
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Comment by Alfman
by Alfman on Fri 13th Dec 2013 16:33 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

So, for the time being, users will need to chose between either privacy or security on the Android devices, but not both.

Google, the right thing to do here is obvious.


Oh my, Google's little accident places them in quite a tough spot. They certainly don't want to enable users to block collection while still running the apps since this could block google's own data collection from apps as well...

The EFF has framed the issue extremely well; There's no way google can come away looking like a good guy unless they give users back the privacy controls.

Edited 2013-12-13 16:34 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE: Comment by Alfman
by Kochise on Fri 13th Dec 2013 17:42 in reply to "Comment by Alfman"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03
RE: Comment by Alfman
by bnolsen on Fri 13th Dec 2013 17:44 in reply to "Comment by Alfman"
bnolsen Member since:
2006-01-06

Nixing privacy controls does make things harder.

Every application I install gives a list of permissions required before actually installing it. Just read through those. I absolutley have refused to install some applications that require unnecessary access to things like address books, etc. As long as that list of requested permissions remains during install at least there's some way to tell what to kill.

Too bad some of the stupid google stuff that can't be uninstalled wants permissions that I think are unacceptable.

Reply Parent Score: 8

RE[2]: Comment by Alfman
by Alfman on Fri 13th Dec 2013 21:26 in reply to "RE: Comment by Alfman"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

bnolsen,

Yea, as an android user myself, I'd much rather be allowed to define my own information privacy policy than get a blunt choice to run (giving the app all the permissions requested by the author) or not to run at all. The app sandbox is very capable of fine grained privacy controls, so there's absolutely no legitimate reason for the OS to force us to grant access to private numbers/contacts/etc just to run a program.

This would be a good opportunity to mention CyanogenMod Privacy Guard, since they don't have the same conflict of interest that google has with regards to user privacy.
http://www.androidcentral.com/cyanogenmod-updating-privacy-guard-20...

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Alfman
by glarepate on Sun 15th Dec 2013 04:46 in reply to "RE: Comment by Alfman"
glarepate Member since:
2006-01-04

Too bad some of the stupid google stuff that can't be uninstalled wants permissions that I think are unacceptable.


If you have Jelly Bean or Kit Kat you can disable the Google apps. That's built into the OS now.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Comment by Alfman
by twitterfire on Fri 13th Dec 2013 22:10 in reply to "Comment by Alfman"
twitterfire Member since:
2008-09-11


Google, the right thing to do here is obvious.


As in don't be evil, obvious? I mean if you live on Earth in 2013 and still trust corporations or governments, you need your head examined.

Reply Parent Score: 4