Privacy International is asking Google to stop bundling apps in Android that cannot be uninstalled, a practice that it says creates privacy and security issues. The problem is especially exploitive of those with lower incomes who can only afford low-cost Android handsets.
“Many Android partners are manufacturing or selling devices that contain pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted (often known as ‘bloatware’), which can leave users vulnerable to their data being collected, shared and exposed without their knowledge or consent,” the charity explains in a blog post. “Privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at least in theory. It is time for this double punishment to end. Being economically vulnerable should not mean losing your fundamental rights and companies have a responsibility to protect their consumers.”
Privacy International partnered with Amnesty International, DuckDuckGo, the ACLU, and about 50 other organizations to create an open letter to Google in which it asks that the Android maker allow users to permanently uninstall every app that is preinstalled on their phones, ensure that its bundled apps same adhere to the same rules as Play Store apps (especially with regards to permissions), allow preinstalled apps to be updated through the Play Store without requiring a Google account, and refuse to certify any devices in which hardware makers or partners try to circumvent these changes to exploit user privacy.
“Pre-installed apps can have privileged custom permissions that let them operate outside the Android security model,” the open letter, addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, reads. “This means permissions can be defined by the app—including access to the microphone, camera and location—without triggering the standard Android security prompts. Users are therefore completely in the dark about these serious intrusions.”
If you’d like to add your voice to this effort, you can sign the petition.