Sci-tech

Google asked to kill bloatware over security concerns

Google asked to kill bloatware over security concerns”

Pre-installed software is able to work outside the security model of Android.

For much of Android's existence, Google has adopted a relatively hands-off approach that lets manufacturers ship units with pre-installed bloatware which, in many cases, can not be easily removed.

The letter's signees demand a number of changes that are needed most urgently.

And if the applications can not be removed, users are effectively handing over their data to a possibly unknown or unethical party.

The study was carried out cooperatively by IMDEA Networks Institute, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Stony Brook University, and ICSI.

Signed by a group of privacy activists including those from DuckDuckGo and the Tor project, the letter stated that most of the apps are never checked for malware or updated, hence often left with loopholes on user devices.

"We, the undersigned, agree with you: privacy cannot be a luxury offered only to those people who can afford it". In many instances, the app features would not match the app they installed.

These pre-installed apps don't come with "stock Android" but are added later by phone companies and are called "Bloatware"; critics claim their real goal is to collect personal data without the consent or knowledge of users.

Apps that come pre-installed by vendors are able to set up invasive permissions they want - including access to the microphone, camera, and location - without ever asking the end-user.

The letter references a joint US-Spanish study published past year which uncovered the surprising scale of the bloatware issue - of 140,000 pre-installed apps, only 9% were available on Google's Play Store, for example.

They asked Pichai to allow Android users permanently uninstall the apps on their phones, including any related background services that continue to run even if the apps are disabled.

Alec Guertin and Vadim Kotov further elaborated that the "Play Store has introduced new policies and Google Play Protect has scaled defenses, Bread apps were forced to continually iterate to search for gaps". The malware developers have also obtained many fake reviews for their app variants on the Google Play to boost user confidence.

According to the group, Google should not certify any device from a manufacturer that fails to adhere to these rules. In addition, a request page has been provided to allow people and smartphone users to add their voice to the campaign by subscribing to a request. Consumers need to be protected against being snooped on by devices from the moment they purchase them.

Just to put things into perspective, while the 2018 yearly review does not provide the exact number of removed malicious apps, the 2017 one said that the company "took down more than 700,000 apps that violated the Google Play policies, 70% more than the apps taken down in 2016".



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