updated 04:35 pm EDT, Fri July 30, 2010
Android app maker says spyware claim false
Mobile app developer Jackeey Wu defended himself against claims of producing Android spyware apps today while also underscoring some of the risks of Google's mobile OS. He noted that some of the permissions his Wallpapers allegedly requested, such as for the web browser history and SMS message records, aren't in the actual app. As requesting private information automatically flags the app in Android Market before the install, it's virtually impossible to collect such information in secret, Wu said.
What few permissions Wu needs, such as basic phone access, are to help make features such as favorites work properly as a user changes devices. There's no connection to user data, he said.
Lookout, the research team that had first made the accusations, has since scaled back its claims and in an update said there wasn't any evidence of rogue behavior.
Wu nonetheless didn't exonerate Android and pointed out that the nature of Android and Android Market made it entirely possible for apps to request more information than they needed. Stylem Media's Backgrounds app requests access to deep-level settings and access to personal info despite offering much of the same functionality.
Google does retain the ability to shut down Android apps and has at least temporarily pulled Wu's apps from the Market until it's confident the code doesn't provide a risk. It can also remotely disable apps. Unlike Apple's iOS App Store and Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace, however, Google has typically been less stringent about app requirements and has usually only banned or pulled apps in extreme cases, creating situations where apps can possibly violate privacy or security. Critics of Apple have said its policy is too restrictive as to what apps can be made, but it has also kept complaints of violations relatively low.