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50 Privacy Groups Ask Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Safeguard Android Users

Google was yet to reply to the Open Letter

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privacy, google
FILE -Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the keynote address of the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif., May 7, 2019. VOA

More than 50 privacy groups including American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and UK-based Privacy International have called on Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai to take action against pre-installed ‘bloatware’ on Android devices as they pose security risk to customers.

“Android Partners – who use the Android trademark and branding – are manufacturing devices that contain pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted (often known as ‘bloatware’), which can leave users vulnerable to their data being collected, shared and exposed without their knowledge or consent,” Privacy International said in a statement.

These phones carry the “Google Play Protect” branding, but research shows that 91 per cent of pre-installed apps do not appear in Google Play Store.

These pre-installed apps, said the Open Letter, can have privileged custom permissions that let them operate outside the Android security model.

“This means permissions can be defined by the app – including access to the microphone, camera and location – without triggering the standard Android security prompts.

“Users are, therefore, completely in the dark about these serious intrusions,” the privacy groups lamented.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Pre-installed apps should adhere to the same scrutiny as Play Store apps, especially in relation to custom permissions, they added.

Pre-installed apps should have some update mechanism, preferably through Google Play and without a user account.

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“Google should refuse to certify a device on privacy grounds, where manufacturers or vendors have attempted to exploit users in this way,” the privacy groups added.

Google was yet to reply to the Open Letter. (IANS)

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Digital Media Giants Threaten to Suspend Services in Pakistan

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Pakistan digital media
A coalition comprising digital media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have threatened to suspend services in Pakistan. Pixabay

A coalition comprising digital media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter (among others) have spoken out against the new regulations approved by the Pakistani government for social media, threatening to suspend services in the country if the rules were not revised, it was reported.

In a letter to Prime Minster Imran Khan earlier this month, the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC) called on his government to revise the new sets of rules and regulations for social media, The News International reported on Friday.

“The rules as currently written would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses,” reads the letter, referring to the Citizens Protection Rules (Against Online Harm).

The new set of regulations makes it compulsory for social media companies to open offices in Islamabad, build data servers to store information and take down content upon identification by authorities.

Pakistan digital media
According to the law, authorities will be able to take action against any citizen of Pakistan found guilty of targeting state institutions at home and abroad on social media. Pixabay

Failure to comply with the authorities in Pakistan will result in heavy fines and possible termination of services. It said that the regulations were causing “international companies to re-evaluate their view of the regulatory environment in Pakistan, and their willingness to operate in the country”.

Referring to the rules as “vague and arbitrary in nature”, the AIC said that it was forcing them to go against established norms of user privacy and freedom of expression.

“We are not against regulation of social media, and we acknowledge that Pakistan already has an extensive legislative framework governing online content. However, these Rules fail to address crucial issues such as internationally recognized rights to individual expression and privacy,” The News International quoted the letter as saying.

According to the law, authorities will be able to take action against Pakistanis found guilty of targeting state institutions at home and abroad on social media. The law will also help the law enforcement authorities obtain access to data of accounts found involved in suspicious activities.

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It would be the said authority’s prerogative to identify objectionable content to the social media platforms to be taken down. In case of failure to comply within 15 days, it would have the power to suspend their services or impose a fine worth up to 500 million Pakistani rupees ($3 million). (IANS)