Batista R. Harahap

Android Apps NOT Safe - Really?

This past 24 hours, tech blogs around the globe have been pointing out that 1 out of 5 Android apps are exposing private data and actually acting as spyware. I'm amused by this issue being reported nearing iPhone HD's launch. But I will say that the reports are true.

You guys must know that I'm an Android developer as you can see by the tag cloud in my blog is heavy with Android. I'm gonna try to write unbiased and let you all decide for yourselves. Been wanting to write about this since last night but only got the opportunity to do so.

First of all, the reports are true. Yes Android apps have the ability to be spyware like any other app in any other platform.

I believe compared with Apple's tight leash with its own App Store, Android is not as solid. With Apple, every app goes into moderation every time it's submitted for App Store distribution (the only distribution I might add). Apple must do rigorous QA testing to ensure the quality of each app. This will most definitely cut down the number of malicious apps but still possible to do evil things.

The problem with Android is education to its end users. As a developer, I'm exposed to the mechanism that Android apps have to adhere to. Android Market is an open platform in a sense that it allows the users to vote, comment and decide for themselves the apps listed. Prior to installation of every app, permissions with every app's manifest files are exposed to the user. So every activity an app do, users do know initially.

Now it's back to the end users to allow the actual app itself be installed with a set of permissions initially. If the app has nothing to do with Internet connection or even accessing your phonebook, then it's the user's choice NOT to install the app. In short, as a user, we must be smart in our own capacities.

Google is NOT doing a good job in educating its users of these risk potentials I must admit. They must do something and I'm more than happy to advocate. They have created a democracy system. In every country, bad guys exists; so is in the virtual world. It's just a matter of being smart and educated to a point where we can fend the bad guys only with our own knowledge.

Again as a developer, I transitioned from being a web developer to an Android developer seamlessly. Because everything is transparent, well documented and straight-forward. This is what an app should be. It's up to you guys as developers to create apps that are great and users to define which is app is great. So it's like a cycle of co-dependency between the two.

So I believe Google have created a virtual ecosystem that mimics the real world perfectly. The decision making is in your hands users because you are the center of Google's universe. I like this because every online person in the world is still human and therefore a touch of humanity is important. You are given a choice so choose carefully.

24 June 2010 by Batista Harahap on Android | android market | google | install | manifest | market | permission | permissions
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