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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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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.

Also Read: Loneliness as Dangerous as Smoking or Obesity: Researchers

“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)

Next Story

WhatsApp Dark Mode Rolling Out for Beta Testers on Android

Last week, WhatsApp added a new privacy setting, which will let users decide whether they want to join a group on the messaging platform or not

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WhatsApp on a smartphone device. Pixabay

Website WaBetaInfo, which follows developments with the beta version of the app on Wednesday revealed that WhatsApp has started rolling out dark mode to users of its beta version for Android app.

Those who are using the beta version of the company’s Android app, can now download the version 2.20.13 of the app on their smartphones to get hands on the feature.

One can follow this path to enable dark theme on the app: Settings > Chats > Display > Theme > Dark Theme.

Along with the “Dark” option, one will reportedly see the “Light” option that is the normal theme, another will be “Set by battery saver” which is expected to automatically switch to light/dark theme and one may also see an option of “System default” which identifies the theme of your smartphone and sets the app’s theme accordingly.

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

Additionally, the iOS dark theme is also nearly set for release.

WhatsApp is also testing a new beta update for iOS users which would bring features like hide muted status update, splash screen and app badge improvements, among others.

Also Read: Global Smartphone Market to Grow by 64 mn Units in 2020-24

WhatsApp’s new splash screen would essentially let users see the WhatsApp logo whenever they open the app on their iPhones. This is also available on the Android beta app.

Last week, WhatsApp added a new privacy setting, which will let users decide whether they want to join a group on the messaging platform or not. (IANS)