Google removes Android smartphone privacy control feature

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Google has disabled a privacy feature from Android mobile software that enabled users to block apps from gathering personal data such as users’ locations and address book data.

This means that owners of smartphones with Android 4.4.2, the newest version of the operating system, will have to provide access to their personal information to use certain apps.

The feature was accidentally included in Android 4.3, said a company spokesman.

“We are suspicious of this explanation and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it,” noted Peter Eckersley, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s technology projects director.

The digital rights website was the first to publish the change in a blog post.

Eckersley said that Android users who wish to keep the privacy controls by choosing not to upgrade to the latest version could be prone to security risks.

“For the time being, users will need to choose between either privacy or security on the Android devices, but not both.

Most third-party apps for Android devices, like popular smartphone flashlight apps and music-identifying service Shazam, require access to personal data that does not even have any connection to its functionality, such as location data and phone call information.

Eckersley noted that the privacy feature enabled users to select which personal information a third-party app can collect. To use the hidden privacy controls, users will have to install the Apps Ops Launcher software that was created by another firm.

During the third quarter, Android software was used on 81 per cent of all smartphones shipped across the world, according to industry research firm IDC. This compares with Apple’s iOS, which accounts for 12.9 per cent of total market share.

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