Two pieces of news yesterday and today, with two seemingly divergent paths in respecting user’s privacy. And what better visual aid to use than two of the Internet’s most beloved memes, Good Guy Greg and Scumbag Steve?
Well, that’s what I’m going with today, so deal with it.
Good Guy Apple
As The Verge reported yesterday, a new feature in iOS 8 will randomize your iPhone’s unique MAC address as it scans for WiFi networks to connect to. It doesn’t stop someone from spoofing your home router with a WiFi Pineapple, but it has the potential to put the brakes on an entire industry devoted to tracking you as you move through retail shops.
If your data plan allows it you really should turn your WiFi off when you leave the house, but Good Guy Apple has your back even if you don’t. I myself am not so much a fan of their locked-down ecosystem, but I have to hand it to Apple for putting their users first.
This morning the XDA blog issued a warning about the latest update to the Google Play Store. There are two ways in which Android users can potentially have their privacy compromised, both of which have to do with app permissions.
First, app permissions are now grouped into categories. It seems innocent enough until you realize that once you’ve granted permission to anything in any one category then everything else in that category is granted that same permission as well. So for example, you may grant a third-party calendar app permission to write to your Google calendar, only to find that that same calendar now has the ability to suck up your address book and spam your contacts—all because calendar and contact permissions are now in the same category.
Even worse, Google has decided that giving apps permission to access the Internet is no big deal. In most cases it makes sense; on the other hand, you’ll never know when that solitaire game you downloaded phones home with your personal data every time you launch it.
I know, I know… most people probably don’t care about such things, paying as much attention to app permissions in the Play Store as they do to EULAs on desktop software and web sites. Still, Google is doing their users no favours with this update, and now more than ever Android users need to take control of the situation.
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