Google’s recently added privacy feature, dubbed App Ops, which was able to allow users to install apps while preventing the installed app from collecting sensitive data has is now gone in Android 4.4, according to reports.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) questioned Google over the removal of the feature, and Google responded stating the feature had been released by accident and was experimental.
The EFF, who are advocating for the consumer, are not at all happy with Google’s response and believe the explanation they were provided doesn’t justify the removal of this critical feature. Google’s concern for privacy or lack thereof has been well-documented in the past and this latest feature removal may yet be cause for concern.
The EFF has made the following three recommendations it believe the company must adopt whilst adding more “fundamental pieces” in the future:
- Android users should be able to disable all collection of trackable identifiers by an app with a single switch, including data like phone numbers, IMEIs, information about the user’s accounts.
- There should be a way to disable an app’s network access entirely. It is clear that a large number of apps (including flashlights, wallpapers, UI skins, many games) simply don’t need network access and, as we saw last week, are prone to abuse it.
- The App Ops interface needs to be smoothed out an properly integrated into the main OS user interface, including the Settings->Apps menus and the Play Store. There are numerous ways to make App Ops work for developers. Pick one, and deploy it.
At this stage both the EFF and privacy advocates are awaiting Google’s reply and actions to address this privacy feature removal.
Are you concerned about the removal of this critical privacy feature?