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HTC Android Smartphone Stores Browsing Screenshots 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-you-read-this-before-your-wife-does dept.
Mad Hamster writes "Boy Genius Report points out that the HTC Droid Incredible, using the Sense UI, 'will periodically store screenshots of the contents of your web browser.' These shots are stored in such a way that they are not easily deleted. 'They remain when the current browser session is closed, they remain after you clear the browser history, and they remain after a full factory reset,' though there is a way to delete them manually."
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HTC Android Smartphone Stores Browsing Screenshots

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  • by casings (257363) on Friday June 18, 2010 @04:50PM (#32618806)

    Sounds like the equivalent of writing alert("here"); in javascript?

    Don't think this is a big deal.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bakkster (1529253)

      Don't think this is a big deal.

      Until you lose your phone and someone is able to see your e-mails with passwords contained.

      It probably is a debug feature, but it's one that DEFINITELY should have been disabled before release.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Passwords appear as ***** so no worry there, but the screencaps might show a thief (or unscrupulous friend) that you've been surfing porn, or looking at photos of your sexy wife. "Wow. Mrs. Stiffler is hot."

        • by oakgrove (845019)

          Passwords appear as ***** so no worry there,

          Except for the fact that as you're typing them in, they show each letter for a second or so then it becomes an asterisk. Say somebody uses the same password for a number of sites and you're unlucky enough that a screen cap was taken at various times showing the different letters...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by s73v3r (963317)
      A debug feature who's data persists through a factory reset? I don't buy it. And even if it is, its not ok.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kno3 (1327725)

        A debug feature who's data persists through a factory reset? I don't buy it.

        What are you suggesting it is? A plot by HTC to somehow retrieve private data from its customers? Seems pretty far fetched to me, and it is quite a leap from the evidence presented here. I think occam's razor suggests this is a mistake. Not a small one, but I can't see that it is anything else.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by orient (535927)

          A plot by HTC to somehow retrieve private data from its customers?

          What about a way to obtain proof of child pornography possesion? Or proof of browsing undesirable web sites? Or proof of... whatever the masters might want to prosecute you for? Far fetched, but not impossible and a conspiracy theory is just a theory until it is proved.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DJRumpy (1345787)

          I find myself contrasting the response Microsoft would get if they left something similar on Windows Mobile, and the response Android gets. Although there are a few folks in here with a bit more pessimism, the bulk seem to be willing to assume it's just a 'simple mistake'.

    • by mldi (1598123) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:45PM (#32619596)

      Nope, just a case of someone not turning off the Browser Favorites widget.

      All I can say is "duh". Turn it off and you're fine. It's called a "cache file" so it can display that big static thumbnail image in the widget if you choose to use it.

    • What were you paid by the CIA to post this?

  • Huh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Friday June 18, 2010 @04:52PM (#32618826) Journal

    Wonder what those are used for?

    Are they ever read? Sent anywhere? Are they permanent (always taking up space), or are they rotated out?

    Is there any particular reason I should care?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are they ever read? Sent anywhere? Are they permanent (always taking up space), or are they rotated out?

      They are sent out in the middle of the night when the phone is sleeping...

    • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jahava (946858) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:01PM (#32618946)

      I'll venture a guess: I have noticed on my HTC Incredible that the built-in browser displays a small graphical thumbnail of my bookmarked sites, presumably as a user interface enhancement. When scrolling through my bookmarks, I can see a picture of what the page looked like the last time I visited it. My guess is that these pictures are stored and used to generate those thumbnails.

      If that is truly the usage, I have no issues whatsoever with the practice. If those pictures are leaving my phone, however, then this is really unacceptable.

      • maybe a better practice would be to store a thumbnail size image of the screenshot. Then you would gain 2 things. You wouldn't be taking up as much space. You would probably be saving it in an illegible form (barring any CSI style investigation). You would recognize the thumbnail, but couldn't actually read words like ssn, password, or credit card numbers.

        oh, and maybe delete them with a reset.
        • by dmomo (256005)

          Even if they are being used for something benign, it still makes sense for them to go away on the deletion or browser history. That's essentially what they are.

        • Re:Huh. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by afidel (530433) on Friday June 18, 2010 @07:09PM (#32620468)
          Sorry, but I don't want a reset clearing any user data on persistent storage.
        • maybe a better practice would be to store a thumbnail size image of the screenshot.

          They _are_ only storing a thumbnail; the article just sucks.


          C:\android-sdk-windows\tools>adb shell
          # cd /sdcard/.bo*
          # ls -l | wc -l
          62
          # du -h .
          2.0M .
          #

          Here [imageshack.us], I uploaded the largest one out of the 62 for your review.

      • But how does this fit in with the practice of making them so difficult to remove? Why then aren't they removed when you reset it?

      • by sponga (739683)

        Off topic: Does anyone know the location of those stored pics, because everytime I change roms on my Android phone and restore it. That is the one thing that Google Backup does not restore is the pics.

        So I take it these pics are deleted or just stored locally, but where (System/data ?)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      Is there any particular reason I should care?

      They remain even after a factory reset, which is a little concerning. TFA mentions they found screenshots of everything from their Facebook page to the bank website and everything in between, probably not enough to steal your money or your accounts but still enough to track your activity on the web. If you're doing anything on your HTC phone that you'd rather not have other people (informed, ambitious, and already suspicious people at least) find out about then yes it should concern you a bit.

      • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ChronoReverse (858838) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:14PM (#32619126)
        Of course it's not erased by a factory reset; the images are saved on the external memory card (microsd)

        I'd be really concerned if it WERE erased
        • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

          by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:22PM (#32619266)

          It doesn't bother me that you're wrong (at least according to the article), honest mistake and all, but it does bother me that you're modded up for it.

          They remain when the current browser session is closed, they remain after you clear the browser history, and they remain after a full factory reset. The JPEG files are saved to a folder named .bookmark_thumb1 which is located within the emmc folder of the phones internal storage (so you would expect a full factory reset to delete them).

          • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

            by caladine (1290184) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:26PM (#32619324)
            The article is 100% incorrect. I have the Incredible and they're stored on the external SD card. The article is a load of FUD from Boy Genius.
            • by icydog (923695)
              What happens if you don't have an SD card? Does it store it on internal memory? If so, does that persist through the reset?
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by caladine (1290184)
                Just tried this. Doesn't store on internal memory, the thumbnail is just a picture of an SD card with a "?" next to it, instead of a thumbnail.
            • The article is 100% incorrect. I have the Incredible and they're stored on the external SD card. The article is a load of FUD from Boy Genius.

              Given that these phones have to deal with having both internal and external memory, what's preventing you both from being right depending on the configuration?

              • by caladine (1290184)

                You've got a good point - which is why I've tried it without my SD card inserted. You can make new bookmarks, but it won't store an image. The image it does show is a picture of an SD card with a '?' next to it. Similar for any images of history items. It will try to use cached images when possible, so clear that and you'll see what I have. (I hope)

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hax4bux (209237)

            TFA is wrong. I have a Hero which exhibits the same behavior (i.e. writes thumbnails to the micro SD)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by e2d2 (115622)

      I'm wondering if they are to make thumbnails like chrome does for a "new tab". I use this as my default page.

    • Wonder what those are used for?

      Are they ever read? Sent anywhere? Are they permanent (always taking up space), or are they rotated out?

      Is there any particular reason I should care?

      They're used to make thumbnails for bookmarked pages (and maybe frequently-visited in some versions, I don't have access to >2.1 now.)

      This is exactly like the start page in Chrome, where it shows thumbs of recent pages.. they're at an infinitely small resolution. The entire screen on the EVO is only 480x800px wide, and they cram like a 9-thumb grid in 50% of the screen.

      I wish I could downmod this submission.

  • Hahaha (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by gilesjuk (604902)

    HTC producing great software as ever.

    I could understand all the UI hacks when they were doing WinMo phones as WinMo has an awful interface. But Android isn't as bad, why produce all these closed source crud on top of the OS?

    Why not submit the code back to the Android tree and have it properly scrutinized by the developer community? you won't get stupidity like this then.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by faber0 (234887)

      if you are one of a hundret selling android devices you need something to be distinguished with from the others. So they add on their on UI so customers see it as a better android handset as the ones from other manufacturers. If you submitt it back to android then all will eventually have it and you are just one in the android soup again....

      • by Toonol (1057698)
        An unmodified, unrestricted Android OS phone would be a selling point in and of itself.
        • by eihab (823648)

          An unmodified, unrestricted Android OS phone would be a selling point in and of itself.

          To you, me and a lot of people here. The masses in general only care about how shiny a phone is.

          Over half of the people I see with smart phones do not use them beyond basic call/text and maybe some web browsing.

          Now, if I was HTC, which of the two groups (techies/non-techies) will affect my bottom line?

        • How would you compete with Google's own phone, then?
        • An unmodified, unrestricted Android OS phone would be a selling point in and of itself.

          There is, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_Dev_Phone [wikipedia.org] - you can buy it directly from Google. Sign up as an Android developer for $25 (one-time fee that gets you access to submit apps for the Market, required to purchase the phone unfortunately). The latest version of the phone is actually just a completely unlocked HTC Magic; it costs $399 from Google (no contract subsidy here obviously.)

          If you're interested in a "solution" (only workable to tech savvy folk, really) for from-carrier devices you can pick

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oakgrove (845019)

        So they add on their on UI so customers see it as a better android handset as the ones from other manufacturers.

        I guess if your customer's are complete idiots. Otherwise, you get the experience I had when I was at a T-Mobile store yesterday. I was looking at the new keyboarded version of the My3G and the interface goo they layered on top of Android was just atrocious. Garish bubblegummy looking colors and useless craptastic additions do not a superior interface make. It's like the shit pc makers do

        • But, if it's so great, why do practically all of your savvy customers immediately take it home and wipe it all off?

          Because "savvy customers" are few, and the not-so-savvy are many.

          The people that build the products know you will wipe it after you get home. They don't care - why should they? They know you know how to do so.

          The not-so-savvy people don't have much ability to customize so the phone makers try to do so in a way they think people will like.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      I just got an EVO and shut off Sense on my second or third day. A few days later I turned it back on. It looks a lot better than stock. I love the "phone" button at the bottom and the plus button on the right. Some of the widgets are Sense-only like the 4G on/off button. IMHO, the stock android looks cheap. I'd love to see Sense or a Sense-like UI put into the stock Android distribution.

    • Simply put: Product differentiation and added value.

      HTC feels that it is giving its customer added value by doing this. They are also setting themselves apart from the competition. And their Sense UI has been well received by the market, so why not?

      You ask why they won't submit the code to Android, but then their differentiation would be gone.

      And I don't think the goal should be for all phones to have identical UIs. Variety means choice. If people find that the Sense UI is better, that's one of the th

    • Simple: All these years of WinMo pressed their brains into a mold of insanity. And after taking off the mold, they kept the form.
      It’s like freeing an animal that has lived in captivity all its life. It won’t survive for long as it has no idea what to do with all that freedom.

  • So, I haven't gotten mine yet (should by end of month), and I'm completely new to the Android scene. Couldn't you just chmod 000 the directory and be done with it?
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Probably not. No root or su for you on all Android stock ROMs (except for the G1 RC29/RC8), so you can't chmod a lot of folders. Though you might be able to slip the SD card (it MUST be the SDC that is getting these images) into another machine and do it there, but then I bet it interferes with something else, and you're hosed.

      When root is cracked for this, then I suspect custom ROMs will solve the problem, if they even support Sense.

      • by TyFoN (12980)

        You can just mount the sd card over usb on your computer and do it from there. You have no layers, its just a usb block device (the phone unmounts the sd card and just passes it through to the computer).

    • Re:Workarounds? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:28PM (#32619348) Homepage
      "Couldn't you just chmod 000 the directory and be done with it?"

      From what other people are saying, the directory in question is on the microSD card, which (idiotically) is required to be Microsoft's "FAT32" format...so permissions are not really settable. (You might be able to set the "read only" DOS flag, but I don't know if that'll have any effect.)

      (Honestly, why not even UDF is an option instead of FAT32 I have no idea. It's not like the linux kernel - and every modern Windows and Mac OS - doesn't have the ability to support it.)

  • Bookmarks. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordAndrewSama (1216602) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:02PM (#32618958)
    The HTC Hero has a bookmark widget that uses screenshots of the websites as the buttons with a small label underneath(which is the websites title text I think). Since these images are called bookmark_thumb, I'm going to propose it has something to do with that...
  • by Kostya (1146) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:03PM (#32618966) Homepage Journal

    This is how the iPhone does its cool animated transitions. People threw a stink when that was first discovered, but I can't remember if Apple resolved it. I know a factory reset does work on the iPhone though :-)

  • The boring truth... (Score:3, Informative)

    by nilbog (732352) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:11PM (#32619068) Homepage Journal

    Everyone is up in arms about how these remain after a factory reset. Well the boring and unsensational truth is that the images are stored on the SD card. Your music, pictures, and videos are not deleted with a factory reset either.

    These images are stored under the guise of being used as thumbnails for bookmarks but it seems unlikely as those could be taken as needed. This whole thing is pretty sketchy.

    That said, if you don't want any more images delete the directory where they are stored and create an empty file of the same name (same name as the directory). No more screenshots!

    • TFA says it's stored in the internal storage on the Droid, which is more difficult to delete. (Not by much, but still worth noting.)

      • by atamido (1020905)

        As mentioned elsewhere, it is only stored internally when no external storage is available.

    • by hkmwbz (531650)

      These images are stored under the guise of being used as thumbnails for bookmarks but it seems unlikely as those could be taken as needed. This whole thing is pretty sketchy.

      How would you have images for bookmarks without storing them somewhere?

      • by jack2000 (1178961)
        Why would i want images for bookmarks anyway. This is so inane i don't know here to even start...
  • I've noticed that my HTC Desire (also with Sense UI) does a similar thing, except it stores the thumbnails in my SD card. (The factory reset won't touch SD cards.) Maybe it saves to internal memory when there's no SD card, but I have not checked.

    So it's probably more of a feature with a failsafe (i.e. write to internal memory if no SD is there) that wasn't implemented correctly, and you can still delete the files manually anyway. No big deal for me, but it's enough for me to know in case I do dispose/res

    • by Tacvek (948259)

      The Droid Incredible has what is basically a hard soldered 8 GB SD card in addition to normal internal storage, and the external SD card. It is being written there (possibly only if there is no external SD card, I am unclear on that). As a result it is not being touched on a factory reset. HTC has customized the ROM on that phone in special ways to make the 8 GB internal memory look like regular internal memory. Factory reset would actually not work very well except for special code they wrote to delete thi

      • by Tacvek (948259)

        Correction. I slightly misunderstood the role of the internal storage. I know see that the 8GB chip (or 6 GB according to some sources) is indeed an internal SD card, but it is not actually treated specially. All normal user data is in the standard internal memory, and applications treat the 8GB or 6GB chip exactly like an SD card. No special code was written with regards to it. The idea was that apps are generally small, and any large amounts of data they store on the SD card, so keep the apps in real inte

  • I believe these 'screenshots' are used as thumbnails for the Live Bookmarks feature.

  • by mweather (1089505) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:19PM (#32619218)
    Since when does clicking a file and pressing delete qualify as "not easily deleted"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Since when does clicking a file and pressing delete qualify as "not easily deleted"?

      So, now you have to use a file manager to administrate your phone?

      Android is so easy to use, all you need is a third party task manager to close your apps and a filemanager to clear these thumbnails. Wow, Android is so user friendly. /sarc.

      You are making light of a serious security hole were someone to get a hold of your phone or even the SD card from your phone.

      • If your phone got stolen, the thief would get access to your google account (if you've ever set it up) or your browser history in the first place. Those are things that you wouldn't have been able to delete at the point of theft. Even if you lock the phone -- a good enough thief whose purpose is to steal your data would have researched enough to know how to get it. So that supposed "security hole" is moot -- it's just a tiny thing compared to the other data the thief has already gotten hold of.

        My only re

      • by mweather (1089505)

        So, now you have to use a file manager to administrate your phone?

        I've always used Windows Explorer to administer my phone. Why would I stop now?

  • by miguelfp1 (657082) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:22PM (#32619268)
    yes, it does store the screenshots... for the purpose of having them show up in the Sense UI bookmark widget. on my Hero they are stored on the storage card, on the Incredible they are located on the on-board 6GB partition, http://www.androidcentral.com/htc-browser-bookmark-images-scare [androidcentral.com] explains it in greater detail
  • Just like Safari (Score:4, Informative)

    by schlameel (1017070) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:38PM (#32619496)
    How is this different from what Safari does? As I recently discovered when someone gave me their old PC, clearing the cache (which the person did) does not get rid of the page images Safari creates. There were hundreds of them: news stories, many Google searches, emails being read and written, adult content. I imagine Safari creates the images for the frequently used wall it puts up when you create a new window or tab. However the images were the full page (top to bottom, not just a 4:3 thumbnail) and there were low resolution JPG's and full resolution PNG's. What Safari needs the full page, full resolution images for I can only guess. This was nine-ish months ago, so it may be different now.
  • by nurb432 (527695)

    Except for a bit of wasted storage space, is this all that big of a deal? And its android, so someone can just write an app to clear them, i would assume.

  • by DaveGod (703167) on Friday June 18, 2010 @05:53PM (#32619700)

    Since in their hurried excitement TFA didn't report (or even ask) if this applied to other Android / Sense phones, I see them on my HTC Desire. Anyone using an Android phone without Sense (that is, any non-HTC made Android phone) willing to report? We're all assuming Sense, and it seems likely, but I've not seen any kind of confirmation.

    The images aren't there to be sent back to HTC or whatever, they're just thumbnails for the fancypants UI. But there is an unintended security/privacy risk - that a malicious app could upload them, because apps can read anywhere on the SD card (if the app info says they can access the SD card, they can read all of it). OP is quite the dramatisation though, I read it to suggest shenanigans due to that folder being specifically and strangely excluded from the factory reset. That's not the case, the folder is on the SD card none of which is wiped on a factory reset - only the phone's storage is. If you're selling it with your phone (of any kind) you should know to also wipe the SD card.

    Also, we don't know what the deletion policy is i.e. how much space they might eventually taking up, this is probably making a bit of an effort to imagine possibilities to complain about.

    Another comment suggests "Can be fixed by deleting the folder .bookmark_thumb1 and create an empty txt file .bookmark_thumb1" (which, since being lackadaisical seems to be the in thing, I can't be bothered testing to confirm).

  • Stories like this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kindbud (90044) on Friday June 18, 2010 @07:27PM (#32620648) Homepage

    Are why we need to be able to moderate the article itself.

    Is there a running contest among /. editors to see who can approve the dumbest stories?

  • The Incredible phones are really part of a conspiracy to enslave us all and take our money little nibbles at a time through some fiendish plot of impulse buying cute and interesting little apps.

  • 144 Comments? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tokerat (150341) on Saturday June 19, 2010 @01:40AM (#32622738) Journal

    Only 144 Comments? Why isn't everyone losing their shit over thisOH I see, it's not about Apple. I stand corrected. Please move to the next Apple thread and begin your irrational bashing there. Thanks!

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