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Google urged to clamp down on Android bloatware by DuckDuckGo and other organisations

53 organisations have signed an open letter to the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, requesting that the firm addresses Android bloatware and its associated security issues.

The letter, which you can read in full here, was published via Privacy International, a charity that promotes privacy, with the main thrust of their concern being that pre-installed apps “can leave users vulnerable to their data being collected, shared and exposed without their knowledge or consent.”

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It claims that 91% of these pre-installed apps do not appear in the Google Play Store, but nonetheless may gain access to Android phones users’ camera, location, and microphone data. The letter advises that three major changes should be implemented to address these issues.

The suggest changes are as follows (quoted in full):

  • Individuals should be able to permanently uninstall the apps on their phones. This should include any related background services that continue to run even if the apps are disabled.
  • Pre-installed apps should adhere to the same scrutiny as Play Store apps, especially in relation to custom permissions.
  • Pre-installed apps should have some update mechanism, preferably through Google Play and without a user account. Google should refuse to certify a device on privacy grounds, where manufacturers or vendors have attempted to exploit users in this way.

DuckDuckGo and the Open Rights Group are amongst the signatories.

Bloatware has long been a pet peeve for all of us at Trusted Reviews, and we hope that Google actually does something about it.

Android 10 is the latest iteration of Google’s mobile operating system, and it has been rolling out to smartphones since September 2019.

Among the new features it boasts are Dark Theme, Live Transcribe, Focus Mode, and Sharing Menu.

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In our review, we found that this latest update is a modest change rather than a revolutionary redesign, but we liked the intent behind the imperfectly-realised Dark Theme, and we found Live Transcribe to be a particularly useful new tool (downloadable via the Google Play Store). It remains to be seen whether Google will usher in the security changes urged by signatories of this letter into Android 10.