Should you really be worried about apps stealing your photos?
Mar 13, 2012 12:38 PM –
As almost everyone with an Internet connection knows, earlier this month the Web exploded with reports of both iOS and Android apps being able to take advantage of a loophole that would transmit pictures without any additional permissions. The short version is that, for Android at least, there aren’t any apps exploiting the loophole that have been found, but the loophole is there and could, potentially, be abused.
In fact, in several statements, Google noted that the loophole itself was actually not a mistake – it is a relic of the early design where most images were stored on external memory, and needed to be moved around between memory cards or other storage places. They are, according to statements, taking another look at that part of the code, since devices these days carry enough on-board memory to not need external storage; and when there is external storage, it is done mostly in the cloud these days.
So, what does all this mean for you, the average user?
Honestly, in my personal opinion, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. The permissions were set up the way they were because we, as a people, like to share things. We especially like to share photos of our kids, our cats, our vacations, or anything else we can point a camera at. We all carry our phones around, which have cameras built in, and we don’t just like to take pictures – we take them specifically to share with other people. In most cases, I’m willing to bet that most of us aren’t taking pictures at all unless we snap them to share immediately – something cute or funny or interesting that makes us think “so and so needs to see this.” So we snap a picture, hit share, and go on with our lives.
If the permissions were so restrictive that we had to approve every single instance of not only a photo upload, but its use somewhere, it would take 15 minutes or more for most people to log into Facebook every day. It would mean that instead of snapping and uploading a quick picture immediately, it would take 10 minutes after you take it to get the photo up on a site somewhere. And let’s be honest here – how many of us, in this “instant” society we live in, are willing to wait that long? I’m just demonstrating how cumbersome it can get if permissions were more restrictive.
At the end of the day, there is probably a compromise in there somewhere, where Google will tighten up the permissions without completely choking the ability to quickly and easily share our content, and I hope that happens. But to be honest, while I do understand the security concerns I’ve seen posted elsewhere, most of them are pretty extreme examples of what could happen – such as the government stealing photos to spy on us. While I admit it COULD happen, how many of us are every likely to be the target of a covert government investigation that would require viewing our cat pictures? And if we were in that situation, what makes you think the government doesn’t have a better way to get those photos that doesn’t require a tiny loophole in a line of code somewhere?
As the Internet Generation, we don’t produce content for ourselves anymore, we produce it to share with other people, and we want apps that will make that sharing fast and easy. So I find it hard to get worked up over the discovery that Google, or Apple, had lines of code that were specifically designed to make creating apps that made photo sharing as easy as possible. It’s not going to stop me from downloading and using those apps, and it’s certainly not going to stop me from taking photos with my phone and tormenting my Facebook friends with yet another stupid cat picture. There are other privacy concerns I do have, but photo sharing just isn’t one of them at this stage in the game.
, Android Apps
, Android Security
, Photo Security
, Photo Sharing
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