Most of the Android smartphones come with certain pre-installed apps like Google, Gmail, Facebook and Instagram. While these cannot be considered as bloatware, some handsets have a number of games and other apps installed that aren’t exactly too useful. And those, can certainly be called bloatware. There are some cases where the user is given the permission to disable or uninstall the bloatware apps, however in some devices, there is no option to uninstall the bloatware from the handset.
Now, according to an independent study led by a Spanish academic group it has been found that personal information of the user can be collected by the pre-installed apps in the Android smartphones.
The study was conducted by the public Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, IMDEA Networks Institute and Stony Brook University where they looked at pre-installed apps from Android devices of 130 countries which comprised of 2,748 users, 1,742 devices from 214 vendors. Although Android is a Google-owned OS platform, it is open-source in nature unlike Apple’s iOS.
The open-source nature of Android allows the smartphone makers to customize the OS according to their own wishes, so they are able to apply their own customised skins. For instance, Xiaomi smartphones come with MIUI, Samsung’s with One UI, OnePlus’ handsets with OxygenOS etc. The customization also allows the device manufacturers to put their own choice of applications in their customized OS before it is released in the markets.
The study found out that the pre-installed apps that comes with the devices puts a potential threat on the user’s privacy and security. As the pre-installed apps asks for permission and access to data before they can be used, but it should be noted that the same app does not ask for similar permissions when they are downloaded through the Google Play Store. As mentioned earlier, there are some pre-installed apps that can not be uninstalled by the user which increases the risk even further.
The co-author of the study said, “There is a lack of regulation and transparency and no one seems to be monitoring what these stakeholders and apps do.”
Google replied that it provides tools to the smartphone makers which helps in the development of their own version of the UIs but it also makes sure that no Google privacy and security standards are violated.
A Google spokesperson said, “We also provide our partners with clear policies regarding the safety of pre-installed apps, and regularly give them information about potentially dangerous pre-loads we’ve identified.”
It should be noted that the study did not focus on any specific app or software developers but they focused on the apps which lacked the regulations and violated the rules and the pre-installed apps were found doing the same.
With man’s dependence on the Android devices for everything in his day-to-day life, security and privacy are a major concern. It is up to the Android makers and the parent company Google to keep a tight check on the software developers to make sure no law and regulations are violated.
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