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Google Handhelds Privacy Technology

Google Bans Sale of Android Spying App 415

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-are-you-writing-there dept.
dbune writes "Google is not letting a handset application that spies on someone's text messages be sold at its Android App Store. The Secret SMS Replicator developed by DLP Mobile to help lovers find out if their partners are cheating on them violates company policy, according to Google. The app works by secretly duplicating incoming text messages and forwarding these to another mobile phone number."
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Google Bans Sale of Android Spying App

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  • This is a good move by Google even if it will resemble Apple's 'app store governance' to some degree. Google needs to protect their customers/product (one and the same).
    • Re:Good For Google (Score:5, Insightful)

      by paeanblack (191171) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:27AM (#34102000)

      Even if this app smelled like roses and shat apple pies, it shouldn't be allowed in the app store.

      It's not about 'evil intent', it's about a program that behaves badly...it doesn't appear in the list of installed apps, it doesn't use the normal install/uninstall procedures, etc.

      I can think of several legitimate, useful reasons for an app that duplicates text messages, even if such a program could be used maliciously. OTOH, a piece of code that circumvents the OS to hide itself? That's not an application. "Applications" are expected to mostly conform to certain norms on how they interact with the user and the OS.

      There is no heavy-handedness on Google for kicking this one to the curb.

  • iPhone version? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:09AM (#34100882) Homepage Journal

    DLP Mobile also tried to sell the app on Apple's iPhone app store but was rejected.

    I doubt that. The iPhone walls off SMS messages from apps. Apple can't have rejected it - you can't write it.

    • Re:iPhone version? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:23AM (#34101076)

      DLP Mobile also tried to sell the app on Apple's iPhone app store but was rejected.

      I doubt that. The iPhone walls off SMS messages from apps. Apple can't have rejected it - you can't write it.

      Sure you can. If it exists on the iPhone, you can weasel your way around and get at 'em. However, you're probably going to have to use enough private APIs and the like that you'll be rejected immediately for failing the static code test.

      Anyhow, it's not like Android doesn't warn you - isn't that widely approved "permission list" that it pops up going to tell you it has access to SMS and the like? (Even though in practice with Joe User, it fails miserably since Joe User doesn't read dialogs and such things just impede progress to their goal of playing with the app).

      Finally, I think it's an app that has been marketed truthfully. All this will do now is have other app developers embed such functionality into their apps now from all the news. Suddenly all those "2-factor bank SMS" things don't seem so secure anymore, do they?

      • Re:iPhone version? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:28AM (#34101158) Homepage Journal

        Anyhow, it's not like Android doesn't warn you - isn't that widely approved "permission list" that it pops up going to tell you it has access to SMS and the like?

        If you have access to someone else's phone to install this spyware, you have access to approve the SMS permissions on install. The person being spied on gets no warning.

        Finally, I think it's an app that has been marketed truthfully.

        It's an app designed to be installed on someone else's phone without their consent.

        • by N1AK (864906)
          If you let me into your house and I leave a bug, most people wouldn't blame the bug, they'd blame the person who abused your trust.

          My only concern would be that (I expect) the app makes itself hard for the owner to find. If the app intentionally removes itself from the app manager list etc then I'd say that was a flaw in the OS design. Otherwise this is simply the risk of letting someone (who you evidently can't trust) have full and unmonitored access to the device.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            If you let me into your house and I leave a bug, most people wouldn't blame the bug, they'd blame the person who abused your trust.

            I also don't blame Whole Foods for not selling High Fructose Corn Syrup. I don't blame vendors for not selling magnet 'health bracelets'. In a similar manner I don't blame Google for not selling this product.

            Conversely, this isn't like Google Voice being banned from the Apple store because Google Voice doesn't tread into a legal grey area.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        This is going to be installed by someone else on your phone. They will just click OK on the dialog, and you will never hear about it again.

      • by jlusk4 (2831)

        Not to mention the fact that Joe Developer claims he needs access to all rights because he's too lazy to come up with the minimal set he really needs.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zarhan (415465)

          I wonder - never done any phone software developments, but shouldn't the SDK's and toolkits come with some sort of "minimal access profiler"? Just run your app on your dev platform, go through all functions and the profiler would tell you what accesses it really needed?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314)

        "Suddenly all those "2-factor bank SMS" things don't seem so secure anymore, do they?"

        That's why some banks, i.e. Barclays in the UK, send you the digital equivalent of a one time pad.

        It's a pain in the arse if you want to manage your account on holiday or whatever and forget the pad though.

  • Its rather Ironic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:10AM (#34100886)
    Its rather Ironic that a company who's business relies on spying (cough) tracking what other people do should ban an app designed to track what people are doing.
    • Its rather Ironic that a company who's business relies on spying (cough) tracking what other people do should ban an app designed to track what people are doing.

      Yes, but the Golden Rule clearly states "Do as I say, not as I do".

      • by Dunega (901960)
        Which Golden Rule is that? Last I checked it was "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden Rule [wikipedia.org]

        If you were just being sarcastic, my apologies.
      • by sorak (246725) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:35AM (#34101290)

        I choose to go to google, knowing that they will use that information to sell me ads. This software is about someone's wife or husband slipping a trojan on another person's phone that will forward all text messages to him/her.

        Do you not see a difference?

        • by sorak (246725)

          Correction: it isn't a trojan, so much as spyware.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Reziac (43301) *

          Yes. The husband/wife has a great deal more right to know what *their own spouse* is doing, than Google has rights to know what *everyone* is doing.

          I say that even tho I object to spyware on principle, and figure if a relationship is already that devoid of trust, the *real* function of such spyware is to collect evidence for divorce court.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by sorak (246725)

            Back in the days of mom & pop stores, one of the selling points was that the store would be run by a kindly old man who would form a relationship with the customer. (I'm romanticizing, but please understand the marketing pitch). You go in and buy your groceries ever week, and he gets to know you.

            I see Google's role analogous to the shop-keeper. He isn't following you out of the store, and (AFAIK), he isn't selling detailed reports on your shopping habits to some other store. He's just remembering that y

    • An app that only affects a device that someone must physically have access to in order to install, no less.

    • by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:24AM (#34101106)
      Yeah, because someone who knows you spying on your text messages is exactly the same as some software gathering demographic information that will be used to better market things to large groups of people.
    • by DrDitto (962751)
      How does Google's business rely on spying? By delivering advertisements based on what you search for?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851)
      Not really, what Google does is still legal. What this app does is wiretapping which is illegal without a court order. Doesn't matter whether you're in a one or two party consent state, zero party consent requires a court order and to be performed by law enforcement.

      Google almost certainly pulled the app because the expressed purpose of the app is to violate the law. The only question is why it got into the market to begin with. I'd've thought they'd make a quick cursory glance at the summary before putt
    • by jlusk4 (2831)

      It's not spying if they're up front about it. Which they are.

      Really? You're going to use their free web mail and their free browser and then complain about them using the info they harvest? Did I miss something?

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Google tracks you with your consent. If you don't like it, don't consent. Delete your cookies, use rival search engines, don't buy a "smart phone".
  • by Urban Garlic (447282) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:12AM (#34100916)

    Isn't one of the advantages of Android the ability to install apps from other than the Google app store? So people who really want this thing can still get it, independently of Google's disapproving glare, right?

    Genuinely curious about this.

    • by psm321 (450181)

      Yes, exactly. Even with no jailbreaking/rooting. That's why this shouldn't be a big deal either way.

      • It's a big deal if you're the one who's being spied on. A few people are going to have a "Wish I'd bought an iPhone instead" moment because of this.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          as opposed to:

          "wish i'd locked my phone instead" moment

          or

          "wish i hadn't cheated/got caught having an affair instead"

          the solution is NOT always an iPhone.

        • by robmv (855035)

          this could be solved requesting the lock passkey/password/pattern before installing (no needed when updating), that way you can lend your phone to anybody and they will not be able to install any spying tool

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:16AM (#34100970) Homepage

      Correct, provided you don't have a carrier-locked-down Android phone that prevents you from installing apps from sources other than the official market (though that kind of thing is quite rare...I believe there are only a couple out of the myriad of Android devices set up like this.)

      • by Dhalka226 (559740)

        That there is any carrier lockdown at all is a pretty hilarious illustration of just how much some companies don't get it.

        If I'm in the market for a smartphone, and I don't choose the iPhone, lockdown is likely a major factor for the decision; it's one of the major things Android has going for it over the iPhone. A carrier making the non-locked-down phone locked down just makes me giggle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by the_humeister (922869)

        That would be AT&T. But there is still a way around that by downloading the Android SDK (apk tool that is in there). No need for rooting.

    • by immakiku (777365) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:17AM (#34100978)

      Yes indeed. I am much less concerned about this decision than I would if this happened on App Stores. I think Google's point is that they don't want a stalker to sneak 2 minutes on a target's phone while they're going to the bathroom and install the app easily from the Android App Store.

      • by immakiku (777365)
        Eh that is, I'd be more concerned if it were banned on Apple Stores, because on that, there's NO way to get the app even if you as phone owner personally approve.
    • by Rhaban (987410)

      Isn't one of the advantages of Android the ability to install apps from other than the Google app store? So people who really want this thing can still get it, independently of Google's disapproving glare, right?

      Genuinely curious about this.

      Yes.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Which means that it is the worst of both worlds. The App is not outright malicious, as it does not include secret functionality. It will still be available, users will simply have to go the black market, which will result in more users becoming familiair with the black market, which means they are more likely to use it. So the App store, which main purpose it protect users from malicious software, will have utterly failed in it's mission.

      Furthermore, this shows a serious flaw in security model of Androi

  • I wonder if the real reason is because someone without a good texting plan would go over the number of messages allowed and get a big bill?
  • There goes all the fuel behind the "Google's App Store is completely open" argument. And before everyone starts jumping all over me claiming how this is a good thing because this app is malicious..that's just a matter of opinion. I'm sure the first married man who discovers his wife is fucking one of his coworkers thanks to this app will have a vastly different opinion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anomalyx (1731404)
      I have a hunch that this pull has nothing to do with openness and everything to do with avoiding a lawsuit for facilitation of wiretapping.

      I'd still call the Android Market pretty open. The platform as a whole is still quite open, considering you can easily install apps without going through the Market - Just download the installer and run it on the phone and you have it again. All that really happened here was getting de-listed from the Market.
  • by C_Kode (102755) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:37AM (#34101314) Journal

    What irritates me the most is how many apps now request access to my GPS data. I mean, why does Com2Us's Homerun Battle 3D need to know my GPS location? It's a freaking game! Pageonce personal finance or Live Scores? Why do you need to know where I'm at?

    You don't. You just want to sell my information.

    • by faedle (114018) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:20AM (#34101916) Homepage Journal

      This.

      It's even more annoying when you are somewhere you know you won't get good GPS information and have intentionally turned it off. Groupon's applet is particularly annoying in this regard. Dammit, just load and log me in to my account and give me the deals for the city I told you I was in.. don't sit there and freeze while you try to get a GPS fix that may never happen because I'm in the subway.

  • Lovers? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Malc (1751) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:04AM (#34101718)

    The Secret SMS Replicator developed by DLP Mobile to help lovers find out if their partners are cheating

    Call me "old fashioned, but they don't sound much like lovers to me!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by H0p313ss (811249)

      The Secret SMS Replicator developed by DLP Mobile to help lovers find out if their partners are cheating

      Call me "old fashioned, but they don't sound much like lovers to me!

      I'm mystified how people cannot see that when you have reached the point in the relationship when you consider hiring an investigator or installing spyware it's long past time to move on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)

      You're right, it would probably be more accurate to refer to them as "fuckers".

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