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Google Yanks Buried Android Privacy Feature
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AlphaGeek
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AlphaGeek,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2013 | 3:22:09 PM
Good Grief, Google
As a professional software developer, any time I forcibly remove choices and control from my users, I do them a disservice.  Yes, some users need heavy-handed automation and guidance.  Those can certainly be defaults, but a user who desires to take matters into their own hands, once sufficiently warned, has every right to expect me not only to "allow" such activity, but also not to force my will upon the user by purposefully removing their choice.

 

As a consumer, no developer or manufacturer can or should tell us what we will or will not do with anything we purchase from them, specifically the hardware we buy which is our personal property after the sale is complete and solely our own to do with whatever we please.  Period.  The mere concept of a manufacturer thinking that they could possibly dictate or control capriciously what someone does or does not do with their hardware is ludicrous, insulting, and above all - futile and pointless.


I have no desire to materially harm any manufacturer or developer in any way (though I fantasize about choking the crap out of many of them).  This is why I am so very much a fan of the Android AOSP, and the excellent work that has been done by teams like CyanogenMod and individuals like ChainFire and Koushik Dutta.  Some manufacturers like HTC seem to have at least some notion that it is not antithetical to profitability to work with their customers and fellow developers who want to explore the hardware (HTC directly provides SDKs, APIs, and tools for rooting their devices), instead of against us (Samsung S4, anyone?).  I applaud those manufacturers who have caught on, and I invite others to do the same.  C'mon!  Jump in.  We're not sharks.  We don't bite (too hard), and the water is fine!

Happy Holidays!
nh905
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nh905,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2013 | 2:38:34 PM
Re: CyanogenMod has had this feature for years!
To expand on George_B's post, I have had to pass over the most functional app because it asked for unnecessary permissions (like access to the Android system log) and the developer basically did not care to listen.  Without rooting the phone, carrier-installed bloatware cannot be uninstalled.  Even if there is rational for specific permissions, it appears that ad delivery libraries inherit the permissions of the app (http://mostconf.org/2012/papers/27.pdf) and I definitely do not want them poking around my phone.  Google needs to step up to the security issues with Android, from misuse of permissions to the glacial pace of upgrades from carriers.

 
George_B
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George_B,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2013 | 2:13:40 PM
CyanogenMod has had this feature for years!
Being able to control app permissions has been a feature of CyanogenMod for years.  Google and handset carriers are likely not going to release this feature because it gives users too much control in their eyes and yes it can break apps.  Carriers want to be able to install their bloatware and by allowing users to control app permissions you can render any app unable to auto start or access the internet which is something carriers and app developers don't want you to be able to do.  

Every free app that comes with ads can have their internet permissions taken away so ads never load.  This is great for games and other apps that don't need the internet to function.  

Having issues with apps starting by themselves that you don't want/use?  You can take away their permissions to start themselves and their permissions to see the phone's state even if you can't uninstall them you can essentially disable the app by cutting off the permissions.  

Many app permissions seem to over-reach what the app should really need access to.  Do simple phone games really need to be able to see my contacts, call history, use the camera, etc.?  Most of the time no and disabling these permissions is a great way to protect yourself especially when there are many malicious apps out there.  

I will agree with Google that you can break apps.  If you take away Facebook App's ability to use the internet the app won't work and an inexperienced user might not understand how to correct an issue caused by taking away permissions.  It is certainly something for Advanced users.  

This is one of the many awesome features of CyanogenMod and I'm sure other mods for Android too.  I base my buying of Android phones based on which models are supported by CyanogenMod and this feature is one of the main reasons why I use CyanogenMod over Vanilla Android, HTC Sense, Motoblur, or any other Carrier/Manufacturer variations.  
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