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Android Photos Easier to Get Than iPhone's

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A couple days ago, we talked about Apple’s (AAPL) most recent privacy controversy: apps that can download your photos and video. While apps are screened to prevent untoward uses of customers’ private information, the idea that the latest version of Angry Birds (or whatever the next big thing is) might be able to download private photos made a lot of people uncomfortable.
The controversy hit consumers particularly hard in part because of the recent revelation that iPhone apps had access to customer address books. Apple has since fixed this problem, but not before it raised concerns over privacy.
On its end, Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system requires applications to inform users before accessing personal info like address books or the phone’s location. Unfortunately, its photo security is even weaker than the iPhone’s.
According to the New York Times Bits Blog (which also broke the iPhone photo story), Android apps do not need any sort of permission to access user photos. Worse yet, if the phone is connected to the Internet, the app can post pictures to a remote server, and there’s no way for customers to notice.
Once again, the Times asked a developer to design an innocuous looking app that stole user photos and posted them online and, once again, the developer was successful.
Google has acknowledged that no permission is required for photo access and said they might consider changing this feature. According to a spokesman, when Android was designed, photos were stored on a removable memory card, which made security more complex.
As with Apple, it should be pointed out that Google screens the apps that go into its Android Market, and there have been no reports of applications copying user photos and posting them online. That said, private photos are personal enough that even the possibility of their theft and release online should be a concern for users.
The Times points out that Android’s photo issue seems to run counter to its otherwise strong performance on phone security. Of course, considering the ongoing disagreement over its new privacy policy, Google’s position on the subject is already somewhat compromised.
It remains to be seen whether Google will change its photo policy. Until then, it’s something to think about the next time you take a picture on your Android.
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