Google has been urged in an open letter signed by several dozens of privacy activists – including those from DuckDuckGo and the Tor project – to set rules that govern Android manufacturers that pre-install bloatware on their phones.
The group – composed of 53 pro-privacy campaigners – cite that most of these apps are never updated hence often left with loopholes on user devices.
The fact that 91 per cent of bloatware is not available on Google Play also means that the apps are often not compliant with many policies put in place that ensure Android users are safeguarded from malicious apps.
They are not checked for malware; excessive permissions and they have no update mechanism to fix known vulnerabilities, the group says.
The apps also have “privileged custom privileges that let them operate outside the Android security model.”
As a result, these apps can request permissions “without triggering the standard Android security prompts.”
“We are concerned that this leaves users vulnerable to the exploitative business practices of cheap smartphone manufacturers around the world,” the letter reads.
In the letter, the group also say that cheap smartphones are the ones affected the most with more bloatware pre-installed. Which means that privacy becomes a privilege only to those who can afford premium handsets, the group argues.
More Power to the End-User
In the letter, the group urges Google to mandate manufacturers to allow users to uninstall pre-installed bloatware. Additionally, the group also wants Google to ensure that all bloatware is subject to similar scrutiny like apps available on Google Play. Lastly, they are also urged Google to ensure manufacturers have an update mechanism for this kind of apps.
According to the group, Google should not certify any device from a manufacturer that fails to adhere to these rules.
“We… believe these … changes would make a huge difference to millions of people around the world who should not have to trade their privacy and security for access to a smartphone,” the letter reads.