Apps that come pre-loaded in new smartphones (in the Android ecosystem) have been a problem for long. Many phone brands and apps are said to have abused the set-up by surreptitiously collecting data and breaching privacy of users.
Now that the Indian government seems to be in a mood to address privacy concerns for various reasons, it is said to be working on a policy document that seeks to prevent smartphones and app companies from collecting information that goes beyond the ken of their functioning.
According to a report in the Economic Times, “the government is understood to be looking at prohibiting mobile applications from collecting user information beyond their area of functioning, the move coming in the backdrop of concerns around data handling and user privacy, including at the hands of American internet giants Facebook and WhatsApp and scores of top international and Chinese apps.”
The report said that government is also working on areas to stop push apps which are advertised by handset manufacturers.
In any case, illegal collection of data is part of the data protection bill that is currently tabled in Indian Parliament.
Pre-loaded apps under scrutiny
The government, it is said, has misgivings about apps that are pre-burned on smartphones by the (phone) brands. As is obvious, these apps are installed on mobile phones without the consent of the users.
Many of these pre-loaded apps have access to very intrusive permissions out of the box, collect and send data about users to advertisers, and have security flaws that often remain unpatched.
This problem has become particularly troubling on cheaper smartphones which use the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) as opposed to the licensed ‘stock’ Google version of Android that larger brands use.
It is also alleged companies creating their own Android-based firmware for smartphones had a tendency to enable third-party access to user data in its software and, furthermore, hide such activity from the user.
Many pre-installed apps, sometimes also referred to as bloatware, can’t be removed, and employ third-party libraries that secretly collect user data from within benign-looking and innocently-named applications.
This is what the Indian government wants to come down on.
Source: Economic Times