Disappointing: Google Releases… Then Removes Great Privacy Feature From Android
from the bring-it-back! dept
Peter Eckersley, over at EFF, has a disappointing blog post, noting that Google apparently released and then very quickly removed a really good privacy feature in Android. Basically, it would let users have much more granular control over what kind of data an app could access. Right now, when you install an app on Android, the system will tell you what kind of data it wants to access, and then you have to agree across the board, or not install the program. The new feature effectively gave users something of a line-item veto, blocking specific types of data access, while allowing others to go forward, so that people would still use the apps, but block certain attempts to access certain kinds of data they didn’t want that app to see.
Thus, it’s really unfortunate that Google so quickly removed such a great feature. Google claims the feature was “released by accident.” You could see how some app developers might be upset about such a feature, but hopefully not the good ones. If anything, this will drive app developers to be much more protective and careful both in how they design their apps and in how they explain the need for data access to users. As Eckersley notes, the right thing for Google to do here is to re-enable this feature. The fact that it released it, shows that they’ve actually been working on it and have the code. Hopefully, the true story for why it was removed was merely that the code wasn’t quite ready, and that the code will be returned in the near future. In the meantime, however, those who jailbreak or root their device can get the same functionality — but hopefully it will become standard on Android before too long.