Google Would Also Like a Peek at Your Sex Videos

Recent reports indicate that your cat videos, sex pics, and that video you took of that hot hipster on the subway are not safe on your phone if you authorize certain application features. Seemingly, it was only a problem for iPhones and iPads. False! Google’s Android apps are also quite invasive; more so, in fact, than Apple’s:

It turns out that Google, maker of the Android mobile operating system, takes it one step further. Android apps do not need permission to get a user’s photos, and as long as an app has the right to go to the Internet, it can copy those photos to a remote server without any notice, according to developers and mobile security experts. It is not clear whether any apps that are available for Android devices are actually doing this.

“We can confirm that there is no special permission required for an app to read pictures,” said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer of Lookout, a company that makes Android security software. “This is based on Lookout’s findings on all devices we’ve tested.”

So, whether you’re a British secret agent or an amateur pornographer, look out: your phone is no longer a safe place to store pictures that might horrify your grandmother. Or you, if it happens to be your grandmother’s phone. Yikes.

According to Google, the problem has to do with the ways in which the apps were configured to store data; originally, the apps functioned to make transferring data from removable memory much easier.

“We originally designed the Android photos file system similar to those of other computing platforms like Windows and Mac OS,” the spokesman said in an e-mail message. “At the time, images were stored on a SD card, making it easy for someone to remove the SD card from a phone and put it in a computer to view or transfer those images. As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, nonremovable memory, we’re taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images. We’ve always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data.”

It’s apparently quite easy to configure an application to automatically take your most recent photos and submit them to a photo-sharing website; best of all, the app need mention nothing at all about photos!

Google’s app policy requires that applications be incapable of malicious data theft, but since anyone can publish an app, it’s entirely possible to get one past the goalie.

So, for the love of God, don’t download any apps called “Super Fun Time Love Joy App for Ray of Sunshine,” and make sure you warn your friends and family. Because the last thing you need to see is grandma’s…ahem!…duckface.

Google+ Sent You a Friend Request–Do You Accept?

Wait, who the hell is Google+? Did I meet him at that party last night? How drunk was I? Dammit, I hate when this happens!

Sadly, if this article in the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, you probably didn’t accept that friend request. Instead, you threw up, drank some orange juice, and went back to bed, leaving Google+ to wonder why you won’t accept its friendship. Especially after that amazing conversation you had.

It turns out Google+ is a virtual ghost town compared with the site of rival Facebook Inc., which is preparing for a massive initial public offering. New data from research firm comScore Inc. shows that Google+ users are signing up—but then not doing much there.

Visitors using personal computers spent an average of about three minutes a month on Google+ between September and January, versus six to seven hours on Facebook each month over the same period, according to comScore, which didn’t have data on mobile usage.

To be fair to Google+, it would seem that their service does offer features that might be useful; it’s not all Jesus quotes and shit white people say. However, these features are not enough to lure uses away from the social networks that they already populate (probably because moving sucks). Media analyst Brian Solis claims that Google+ has not adequately demonstrated its value to users, but he also adds that “nobody wants another social network right now.”

Yet Google executives aren’t giving up–they’re looking at their long game:

Google executives downplay the direct comparison to Facebook, which has 845 million monthly active users. They have repeatedly said they are making a long-term bet on the initiative, and the company has yet to build up some of the weapons that made Facebook successful, including encouraging app development.

In an interview, Bradley Horowitz, a Google vice president of product management, said Google+ is designed to be more than a destination site and, as a result, is “extremely hard for any third party to measure.” Rather, he said, Google+ acts as an auxiliary to Google services—such as Gmail and YouTube—by adding a “personal” social-networking layer on top of them.

And when Google+ really takes off, the data mining tools will already be in place; thus, advertising content will be so tailor-made for you that your innermost psyche will reveal itself in glorious banners of divorce attorneys, local gun shows, and discount bakeries. Not even Freud could hope to analyze your subconscious with the accuracy of Google+.

So maybe when you wake up, you should accept that friend request and head on over to Google+. Start a “hangout,” have a video conference; then, prepare to be bombarded by ads for private detectives.

Because Google+ just realized you were adopted and figured you might want some help finding your real parents.

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