at least according to Tom Warren
Well, there you go, guys. We got all the confirmation we needed: a Tom Warren tweet
Tom Warren, who works for the tech site The Verge (you may have heard of it) went on a hate parade on Twitter today, calling Android a ‘junk OS’ because, some years ago, Facebook collected the call logs and SMSes of people who opted into giving Facebook that information.
Warren has obviously been harboring some resentment towards Android since this is not the first time he’s called Android a ‘junk OS’ for normally expected behaviour. Maybe it’s because it killed his precious Windows Phone OS? Who knows.
Here’s the deal: before Android Marshmallow (6.0), Android required you to opt into all the permissions an app needed upfront. So if an app needed access to your camera, microphone, call log and messages, you had to grant it at installation time, otherwise you couldn’t install the app.
Some people thought that this was a bad idea (while some people still think it’s a better idea than getting a pop-up for every permission you need to grant). Which approach is better is a matter of personal opinion but that’s how it was.
In this case, Facebook asked for access to the call log and SMS messages and users had to accept these permissions to install the app. So they did and Facebook collected that info.
While I don’t consider Facebook a benign entity (I have an account that I don’t use a lot), I’m also not a tin-foil conspiracy theorist. In any case, I personally don’t mind if they collect that info from my phone if they have asked me for permission first.
So, what’s Warren’s problem?
Apparently, Tom Warren thinks it’s Android’s fault if users didn’t read the permission list upon installing the Facebook app and likens the permission dialog to an EULA agreement that ‘no-one reads’. Really?
Let’s see the average Android permission dialog, pre-Marshmallow
And here’s a link to a sample EULA page.
Hardly the same thing, is it, Mr. Warren?
My problem with Tom Warren’s so-edgy statements on Twitter is that he tries to pretend that personal accountability does not come into play when a user decides to install an app.
The implied solution, according to him? Limit what an OS allows developers and users to do because it is considered normal behaviour for people to not read permission lists but to also want to reserve the right to bitch about it later.
Here’s my take on it.
Even before I became an Android developer, if I suddenly learned that Facebook had access to my call log (and if I actually cared that it did, YMMV) because I hadn’t read a small pop-up with permissions when installing the app, I would immediately tell myself “geez, guy, read the permissions list next time, don’t be such a twit” instead of railing against Facebook and/or Android.
But that’s far too logical and demands too much from today’s ‘it’s not my fault, even if it is’ society, right? Hey, how’s this for an alternative? Maybe educate people to be more careful about the permissions they are granting, since it’s an integral part of privacy in today’s tech-dominated landscape?
Have fun with your manufactured outrage, Tom Warren. It may get you some clicks today but, to me at least, it just cost you your credibility.