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12.10.13

Forget Camera Gimmicks; Google Should Add Legitimate Encryption and Improve Privacy in Android

Posted in GNU/Linux at 7:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A call for Android developers to take privacy more seriously and not turn users of Android devices into products

In terms of privacy, Nexus is a scary thing and it keeps getting scarier over time. Google remotely modifies it without the user’s consent and with each modification it does less and less to respect privacy, installing yet more privacy-infringing software (without consent) and changing the settings to silently give away more personal information.

CyanogenMod is adding encrypted text messaging [1,2], beating Google to it if Google ever plans to support such a feature at all. To be fair to Google, it does share source code [3,4] and this enables forking, but why not make Android freedom-respecting and privacy-respecting by default? The values of Linux and Free software include privacy. There are many articles right now about rogue apps that get too much access to location [5] — something which Google got wrong and continues to get wrong every time automatic update kicks in and overrides settings. Yes, Google is ‘upgrading’ my tablet without my consent and then does all sorts of privacy-infringing things. I regret to say that Google does this. Some people manually ‘upgrade’ to 4.4 [6], but when it comes to Nexus 7, the user is just asked to reboot (after a silent ‘upgrade’), whereupon settings change a little, and silently so. Google says it wants to improve the camera [7,8], but based on some writings on the Web, Google actually cripples it with the ‘upgrade’ and it continues to pose privacy issues (like embedding location data in images or automatically uploading images in the background).

Android is inspiring and helping to build many Linux devices these days [9,10], so we need to keep Google in check and ensure it does not deviate further in the direction of “evil”. With each automatic ‘upgrade’ of my tablet it seems to be getting a lot more like Orwell’s fears.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. CyanogenMod rolls out encrypted text messaging by default
  2. CyanogenMod Android firmware gains built-in SMS encryption
  3. Motorola Releases Open Source Kernel Files For The Moto G
  4. Moto G Goes Open Source
  5. Millions of Android users ‘deceived’ by flashlight app that shares location with advertisers

    An Android developer has agreed to settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over a free flashlight app that has been “deceiving” users.

  6. How to update Nexus 5 to Android 4.4.1 from Gnu/Linux
  7. Fixing the Nexus 5: with a new version of Android, Google tackles the camera
  8. Android 4.4.1 arrives to improve Nexus 5 Camera; download now
  9. Marvell SoC targets Jelly Bean-ready Google TV

    Marvell unveiled a more secure, graphics-rich Armada 1500 Plus SoC for Android 4.2.2 smart TVs “with Google services,” but never mentioned Google TV.

  10. Customizable Android tablet is MIL-SPEC rugged
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