Android No Privacy

Two recent posts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the inclusion and subsequent removal of a very compelling privacy option within Android 4.x.

EFF On December 11th:

This changed with the release of Android 4.3, which added awesome new OS features to enhance privacy protection. You can unlock this functionality by installing a tool like App Ops Launcher. When you run it, you can easily control most of the privacy-threatening permissions your apps have tried to obtain. Want to install Shazam without having it track your location? Easy. Want to install SideCar without letting it read your address book?

EFF on December 12th:

After we published the post, several people contacted us to say that the feature had actually been removed in Android 4.4.2, which was released earlier this week. Today, we installed that update to our test device, and can confirm that the App Ops privacy feature that we were excited about yesterday is in fact now gone.

When asked for comment, Google told us that the feature had only ever been released by accident — that it was experimental, and that it could break some of the apps policed by it. We are suspicious of this explanation…

This is a shame, I would really like to see this feature get re-implemented in a way that helps the consumer maintain some measure of control over their data.