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Sundar Pichai asked to safeguard Android users by 50 privacy groups

Pre-installed bloatware on Android devices can be a threat to user privacy

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Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has been called upon to ensure the safety of Android users in an Open Letter. Over 50 privacy groups have called upon Sundar Pichai to take action against pre-installed bloatware on Android devices. These privacy groups include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and UK’s Privacy International.

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“Android Partners — who use the Android trademark and branding — are manufacturing devices that contain pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted (often known as ‘bloatware’), which can leave users vulnerable to their data being collected, shared and exposed without their knowledge or consent,” Privacy International revealed.

While these pre-installed apps claim to have the Google Play Protect branding, a majority of these apps do not even appear in Google Play Store.

Further, these pre-installed apps can gain access to private customer information by hoodwinking customers. In the Open Letter to Sundar Pichai, the privacy groups claimed that the Google branding can often convince users to share privileged information.

“This means permissions can be defined by the app — including access to the microphone, camera and location — without triggering the standard Android security prompts. Users are, therefore, completely in the dark about these serious intrusions,” the privacy groups said.

The groups want Sundar Pichai to allow Android users the option to permanently uninstall the apps masquerading under the Google branding. Moreover, these pre-installed apps should also go under the same checks as Play Store apps.

“Google should refuse to certify a device on privacy grounds, where manufacturers or vendors have attempted to exploit users in this way,” the privacy groups added in their Open Letter.

Google hasn’t replied to the Open Letter as of yet.

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