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?

Source(s): Electronic Frontier Foundation
Via: 9 to 5 Google.
  • Andrew Melder

    Not sure I understand the geek outrage over this. It was never a critical privacy feature as it was never officially released by Google. While it was in the code, you had to manually create an activity shortcut to access it. 

    • JeniSkunk

      The geek outrage is due to a really useful privacy feature being found by the geeks, and then having to see the feature forcibly inhumed by Google.

    • mrjayviper

      Or one can use something like cm and it’s built in

  • Happy Dog

    I don’t mind if Google track my data. They !make the software and set the T&Cs as to how I use it. I just don’t see why some apps with basic features have to access some important features which don’t relate to the app. That’s what google should help with.

    • mrjayviper

      And that’s what Google used to do with App Ops but that’s gone now in official ROMs.

  • mrjayviper

    Cm11 still has it. I’m guessing other aosp-based Roms too. Though cm has the best and user friendly implementation in my opinion.

    • boars

      It’s worth switching to CM just for this alone. People really should value their data security much more than they do. :|