50 privacy groups ask Pichai to safeguard Android users

Grit Daily News

This week, an open letter hit the web with the backing of over 50 privacy organizations pushing Google to take action against bloatware on Android.

At the other end of the scale, Motorola, Nokia and Google's own devices stick closely to what is called "stock" Android, that is the OS with no or very minimal additions.

Unsafe cyber-threats loom over the 3.4 billion internet users around the world; security experts have started highlighting vulnerabilities in everyday devices that could expose users to the risk of malicious attacks and the unlawful collection of personal data.

As a suggestion to combat the issue, the letter seeks Pichai's approval to let Android users un-install the pre-installed bloatware on their devices permanently.

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

Privacy International, along with dozens of other civil rights organisations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU, wrote: "Privacy cannot be a luxury offered only to those people who can afford it". Most of these fraud apps resemble the popular ones in Playstore, letting users believe they're worth and trustable. In an open letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the group of organizations that include the search engine company and Google's rival DuckDuckGo and the nonprofit organization The Tor Project have expressed concern about the vulnerabilities they face users due to preinstalled applications that can not be deleted and collected, shared and exposed their private data without prior knowledge or consent. This means permissions can be defined by the app - including access to the microphone, camera and location - without triggering the standard Android security prompts.

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.

At ProPrivacy.com, we strongly support consumer privacy for all. Experts urged to make it possible to uninstall apps on the device. Finally, pre-installed apps should have "some update mechanism" that doesn't require an account and that Google should refuse to certify devices with privacy concerns. Since this is the real world unlike the fictional movie one, Google has responded fiercely with a crackdown of over 1700 apps on its Play Store which were all infected by the phishing malware known as Bread.

The failure of Google to moderate the pre-installed app ecosystem has opened it up to a wild-west of exploitation, putting users' privacy and security at risk.

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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