Google Play Store Redesign, Permissions dropped

Google recently updated the design for its online play store. While I can’t find any benefit other than eye candy (It would have been nice to have better search-ability, for example being able to search apps based upon permissions or popularity within certain time constraints) I certainly missed the “Permissions” section. After searching frantically I gave up, bing’ed it and confirmed my fears..parts of them anyway.

UPDATE: The changes go deeper than just this rant, after not being able to sort free/paid apps or relevance/popularity or app categories, lack of downloads in 30 days chart I found this post about ALL the TERRIBLE things (functional regressions) that have changed with the Play store redesign.  From that post user NoWallsPlease gives their perspective:

Don’t forget the Hangouts debacle. There is a consistent pattern here. They are stripping features out of everything and closing everything that was previously open. Very disturbing.

It seems google is trying to be like apple: dumb everything down, like riding a tricycle in a walled-off garden.

Background: app permissions are often why you get apps for free: they sell your identity to advertisers or who ever else might want to pay for that information. Even paid apps do this so getting the paid version isn’t a fail safe. Because I desire a modicum of privacy I ALWAYS check permissions prior to install and app permissions are often a deciding factor in my purchases/installs. Why does a “free” simple game need to know all my contacts and read my SMS, GPS coarse and fine locations? Creepy, especially if the only opt out is to install nothing at all.

app permissions are like the hidden dangers of smoking in the 1950's.

Some things that look good are really a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Sure, you can still see the permissions but you have to click to install first and then review them. This is a setback for privacy because raises the barrier for people wanting to know where their personal information is going. True, most people don’t care but on the other hand most people don’t even know or are too busy so they just trust the app – after all if it was bad why would Google list it in the play store?

This is a setback for security by the same measure. People just don’t have the time (let alone knowledge) to investigate and this makes it even more difficult to spot suspect permissions that may allow trojans/viruses/malware to do god knows what.

Yes, I know the information is semi anonymized but there is no “back” button if an app takes a picture using your camera without your knowledge* and then uploads it to their servers – let alone your facebook friends, status updates, profile info? No thanks. Google already gives paid apps enough information even without any permissions.

Mildly related video (Typical Funny that Microsoft does’nt give an embed code from their scroogled site so I had to find the youtube version:

This seems like a 180 from Google considering to give users the ability to block specific permissions on a per-app basis, lets hope it is rather a stepping stone toward that. In the mean time, root your device and use droidwall if the app will let you.

I am going to speculate that someone at Google got paid a very handsome salary to analyze the user interface and conclude that this change is for the better. Problem is, “better”  according to for-profit corporations generally means higher sales. Is it a coincidence this information is only provided after you have made an initial decision to press that “buy” button? From what I have seen, Computer Human Interaction (CHI)  specialists don’t approach these issues from a customer satisfaction standpoint as it is assumed the Human doesn’t even know what they want.

another blog post about this: http://www.mobileburn.com/21824/news/android-let-down-by-google-play-web-store-redesigned-for-the-worse

 

*technically you knew they could do that (and was ok with that) when you reviewed all the apps permissions and decided to click OK. Reference: South Park's brilliant HUMANCENTiPAD episode.
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