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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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  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:15AM (#34100956)

    It's malicious in exactly the same way as someone installing a USB keylogger in an internet cafe - they have to have physical access to the machine!

  • by fbjon (692006) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:17AM (#34100992) Homepage Journal
    It's malicious as in illegal. Your freedoms do not extend to covert snooping on other peoples conversations.
  • Re:iPhone version? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor[ ]et ['f.n' in gap]> 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?

  • 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 Barefoot Monkey (1657313) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:28AM (#34101164)

    isn't the Android Market supposed to be more open than the App store?

    Absolutely! It's amazing what you can do and still be more open than the App store.

    Jokes aside, Google has a degree of responsibility over the apps that they sell to you. It's perfectly reasonable for them to refuse to sell an app which is specifically designed to be installed without the knowledge or consent of the phone's regular user and who's purpose is to spy on the regular user (with costing the owner money from extra SMSs as a side effect), as that can easily be considered illegal. If you really want this program on your phone then Android is open enough to let you install it, but you'll have to get it from somewhere other than Android Market.

  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:28AM (#34101170)

    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]

    Yes, but in practice, it's usually "he who has the gold makes the rules".

  • by webmistressrachel (903577) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:30AM (#34101210) Journal
    Anonymous Coward, you're such a biter!!

    1) YHBT

    2) Who says I would or wouldn't - this is about the RIGHT to do so in my legal jurisdiction if I suspect blah blah...

    3) Morales != Ethics.

    Rachel x

  • 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 andymadigan (792996) <amadigan@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:35AM (#34101292)
    If you want to spy on your kids then install an app that doesn't try to hide itself, but does tell you if it's uninstalled. The same goes for any other "legitimate" use of software like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:38AM (#34101328)

    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 geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:43AM (#34101398) Homepage Journal

    It is.
    A) This is a snooping app, and malicious.

    B) With a simple selection in the options on the phone, you can install it from another site.

  • Re:iPhone version? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:47AM (#34101470)

    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 L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:54AM (#34101568)
    Or, develop a good relationship with your children instead of once again relying on technology to babysit for you.

    Talk to your kids about behaving responsibly, and openly talk with them about their concerns, and yours.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @10:58AM (#34101628)
    Mod parent up. Kids will get into some trouble, but well-parented kids tend to get into much less, and less severe, trouble than their peers.
  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:01AM (#34101664) Journal

    I don't need to know what my computers are doing at all times in the background. To steal an infomercial catch phrase, I like to set it and forget it.

    There’s a difference between “out of sight, out of mind” and “if I go looking for it, it tries to hide”.

  • 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:Fuck android (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlts (1038732) * on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:04AM (#34101720)

    As of now, we have:

    Maemo/Meego which are only on one device (N900). Six click root and no lockdown whatsoever make the platform very appealing. Downside is that it isn't a popular dev platform (although it should be.)

    Windows Phone 7 -- apps are getting a slow start. Time will tell because it has great Exchange support, and might be able to oust Blackberries from the corporate sector.

    BlackberryOS -- kick butt security, starting to fall behind with consumers, and as the iPhone gets more and more Exchange friendly, it is starting to lose grip in companies.

    iOS and Android -- we have heard the pros and cons of these two operating systems beaten to death. In reality, the only weakness of Android is no encryption (2.2 only encrypts applications moved to the SD card) of Exchange data. When Google fixes this, it is more of a matter of who has the apps someone wants than anything else. I just wish someone would make an Android phone with modern CPU/RAM/disk and open (think N1 or ADP line) of Android phones where rooting/flashing custom ROMs isn't just allowed (no code signing of kernels, eFuses, auto reinstalls), but encouraged. Preferably with a hardware sliding keyboard -- it sucks to type UNIX commands on a virtual keyboard.

  • Re:Lovers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by H0p313ss (811249) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:15AM (#34101864)

    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: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.

  • Re:Good For Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @11:50AM (#34102338) Journal

    google bans stuff...

    from its own market.

    They have every right to ban whatever they feel like banning from their market. In this case, Google claims that the app went against their policy.

    which is only one

    Not quite. There are alternatives. [wikipedia.org]

    enjoy platform openness

    The platform is still open. Google hasn't banned you from installing this particular app onto your android device, just removed the possibility of buying it from their market. You can still acquire the app through the developer or from an alternative market and install it on your phone as a third-party app. The question is whether it was ethical for Google to remove the app, since you could have potential good uses for it. I can't argue for or against the ethics of removing the app from their market, but this particular case does not make the platform less open.

  • Re:iPhone version? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xest (935314) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:44PM (#34103258)

    "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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:52PM (#34103370)

    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.

    Sorry for the inflammatory title but I would like people to really read this AC post and think about it

    I would have thought the same thing this time last year. I was happily married and felt our relationship was stronger than it had been in years (we had some rocky times that we worked through...even forgave a previous transgression).

    She did spend far too much time online playing WOW but it was fine, I understood she needed stress reduction. I started worrying that we weren't spending enough time together... no date nights, seeing films, etc. I blamed the game and tried to find reasons for her to get off the computer and interact with our children and me.

    Well, I finally found a record of a hotel visit in a city far from home, which coincidentally was where one of her online buddies was from. (To this day, why she would let me know this person and become somewhat friends...through another FPS game...is beyond me). I think you know the rest of the story

    Now, I never violated anyone's trust, never went through her mail, don't read messages over my kids shoulder, etc... I give trust. However, if I hadn't seen this receipt..how long would this have lasted? The guys a loser (financially) and she gave him money. What should I do if she emptied our accounts to help him out? He has admitted cheating on his wife in the past, so what health risk does her cheating create for me (STD)? There are a multitude of reasons I should know about the situation. I deserve a loving relationship and she was getting my security while having some fun on the side. And it wasn't that I wasn't "satisfying" her. People who cheat are looking for something they don't have (emotion, feeling sexy again, needing variety, whatever) and don't think to address the issue with their partner until it is too late.

    So please shut up... I'm obviously not as intelligent and insightful to know my relationship was over when it was from my view OK.

    Again, I would NEVER had done this to find out messages (who wants to read the sweet nothings anyway..it would be too crushing)...but I can see others who need to know the truth might.

  • by pr0t0 (216378) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:54PM (#34103392)

    Not the OP, but the replies.

    I used to think EXACTLY like that, until I had children of my own. We often tend to think in terms of one-size-fits-all, or "if it works for me it should work for you". This is very likely human nature, so I'm not denigrating anyone. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. I have three teenage step-daughters. To say the older two have been "challenging", would be the understatement of the century. In a nice suburban home, with decent income, a loving mother and step-father, a good school system, dinner at the table, help with homework, support and encouragement; I've had to deal with drugs, law enforcement, runaways, and a very, VERY serious suicide attempt. I can't even begin to tell the readers of this site the complete and utter hell I've endured in the last few years. I wish this upon no one. Yet through it all, I love them with every fiber of my being.

    Unless you are prepared to lock your child in their room until they are 18, there are forces acting on them that are well beyond the parents' control. It's fantasy to think that good parenting will overcome all. I'm a step-father because the biological father passed away. That does more than a little damage to a child, and no amount of therapy (been there), talking (done that), and good parenting (always) can fix it. There can be neuro-chemical imbalances that you just can't sit down with a child and rationally talk away. Problems can often happen faster than you can detect or address. Teenagers, even good ones, are deceitful by nature as they want to explore the world and there place in it...unencumbered by their parents views or morality. Of course, you do everything you can to prepare them for the challenges, pitfalls, and evils of the world; but there will be missteps, and a rare few can have permanent consequences.

    The point of my little self-pity party, is that while "spying" on your children may not be for everyone, or even desirable by anyone, it should be tool at a parent's disposal if they deem it necessary. While I don't disagree with Google's decision to pull it from their store, I would have words with anyone who tried to keep me from having that technology when it was available because if their own rose-colored world-view from atop the ivory tower. Had we had the ability to see our daughter's text messages, it might have spared her five days in ICU and another ten in a step-down hospital room. As a parent, I can tell you there is simply no price too great to pay to prevent that...nothing, and I mean NOTHING is off the table.

    Having gone though what I have, I've met many parents with similar stories. While you never really know what goes on behind closed doors, most of them do not strike me as the kind of people who let technology babysit their children. They don't seem to be absent in their children's lives. They don't seem to be anything other than loving, conscientious parents who for whatever reason, found themselves dealing with problems no parent ever wants to face; and are looking for any way possible to protect their children.

  • by spamking (967666) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:55PM (#34103402)

    Trusting that your kids will make the right choice is one thing. Your kids actually doing the right thing is another.

    Kids who feel that they have free rein to do as they please are IMO less likely to always do the right thing. However, a kid that knows that mom and dad will find out about me breaking this rule or that rule are probably more likely to not go down the road of bad choices.

    My kids are 7 and 12. Do they always do what I tell them to do? No. Do I always find out that they didn't do it? No. Do they get punished for it when I do? Yes. Would something like possibly provoke them to make better choices? I believe it would.

  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:57PM (#34103424)

    "apparently you don't have teenage children"

    Apparently you messed yours up. Now would be a good time to pay attention to other points of view about whether spying on your kids is OK.

  • by jhigh (657789) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @12:57PM (#34103428)
    Parents should just be parents. We're not supposed to have complete trust in our children...they're children! They do dumb stuff! Does this mean that we should sneak around and covertly monitor everything that they do? Absolutely not. However, my children (who are not quite teenagers yet but will be sooner than I would like) will be made fully aware that their right to privacy ends the second that I think that there might be a problem. They will know that at any time I reserve the right to pick up their phone and go through it, sift through browser history or whatever. Kids should not be subject to constant covert monitoring, but it doesn't mean that parents should give up their authority entirely, either.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:49PM (#34104032) Homepage Journal

    Good for you, telling the publisher how to adapt their app a little. If the app popped up and told you that it was installed, and what it did, by whom, and that uninstalling it would signal the original installer that it was indeed being removed, then hey, kids can uninstall it and face their parents later. Ok.

    I don't have kids. If I did, I would give them some rules about computer and phone usage:

    - Everything on a computer you use at home or portably is available to me. I will ask you to translate the really obscure stuff. I won't need a translator for the really foul and indecent stuff. We'll talk about it.

    - Your phone likewise. I won't listen in on conversations unless I happen to be within earshot. I won't be overreacting to what seems to be natural kid stuff. Sexting and nudies we need to talk about. You will surrender your phone to me if I ask for it, even if you 'pay' for it.

    - You will not try to get around this by having a phone or computer you don't want me to know about. Doing so is proof you are up to no good. Talk to your mother if you don't like this. If you are using someone else's computer or phone, and I catch you, well, your mother will not let you be with the lender. Nice try. We'll let you out of this after you've gotten over it.

    These are the rules between me and my wife. She can see all my email etc, and she reads my stupid postings also. She has all my passwords. I have all of hers I know of. I can live with that. And I know a few parents that have similar rules. Some talk to their kids, some don't. All seem to be getting along with the rules.

    The reality is that your kids are your responsibility.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @01:51PM (#34104062)

    True. But what makes you think spying on the text messages would have stopped anything?

    Sometimes suicide seems like the best option, been there, tried that, and I don't think any force could have stopped me at the time. If at the time I learned that I couldn't even trust my parents because they've been spying on me, I wouldn't be commenting right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:13PM (#34104320)

    Sorry to disappoint you, but you don't have "children of your own." If they are troublesome teens and you've been the step-father for a few years, they were already broken when you bought them. I believe that if you are a good parent from when they are babies, and they are born without physical defects (chemical imbalance, diminished capacity), you can raise intelligent, pleasant, successful, trouble-free children with 100% confidence. If you enter the picture after age ten, you may just be repainting a burning building.

    Good luck to you.

  • Re:iPhone version? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @02:29PM (#34104504) Homepage Journal

    And if I trust someone, and that trust winds up violated? It happens.

  • by tibman (623933) on Tuesday November 02, 2010 @03:31PM (#34105246) Homepage

    I had stupid amounts of freedom and discovered that stricter kids went crazy when they finally left the house.

    My Mom's rules were:
    1) "Clean up your own messes."
    2) "Be polite to guests that are over."
    3) "Learn something new every day."
    My Dad was constantly deployed and played a smaller role in parenting.

    If i skipped class or did poorly on a test and the school called the House to talk to my Mom.. she would ask them if they have talked to me about it yet. If not, she would ask them to speak with me about school related problems first because only the school and myself have the ability to directly change an outcome.

    This set the stage for how i live my life. Laws aren't a substitute for morals. Laws aren't something to obey because The Man will catch you. It's up to the individual to internalize the differences and learn (usually through experience) why rules exist and specifically why. Everyone reading probably breaks the law every day.. speeding. But very few if any are breaking the spirit of the thing and that is to set a safe speed to travel at. Police obviously are supposed to enforce the law to the letter but from experience we know a good officier is lenient and follows the spirit of the law. After all, we are Human.. not machines.

    Strict kids go fucking nuts when they get out of the house. No rules man! That's because they haven't internalized the reasons for the law existing.. it was pressed upon them from above.

    all imo, of course.

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