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<title>Google's Software Is Malware
- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Google's Software is Malware</h2>

<div class="infobox">
<hr class="full-width" />
<p>Nonfree (proprietary) software is very often malware (designed to
mistreat the user). Nonfree software is controlled by its developers,
which puts them in a position of power over the users; <a
href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">that is the
basic injustice</a>. The developers and manufacturers often exercise
that power to the detriment of the users they ought to serve.</p>

<p>This typically takes the form of malicious functionalities.</p>
<hr class="full-width" />

<div class="article">
<div class="important">
<p>If you know of an example that ought to be in this page but isn't
here, please write
to <a href="mailto:webmasters@gnu.org"><webmasters@gnu.org></a>
to inform us. Please include the URL of a trustworthy reference or two
to serve as specific substantiation.</p>

<div id="TOC" class="toc-inline">
<h3>Types of Google malware</h3>
  <li><a href="#back-doors">Back doors</a></li>
  <li><a href="#censorship">Censorship</a></li>
<!--<li><a href="#deception">Deception</a></li>-->
  <li><a href="#drm">DRM</a></li>
  <li><a href="#insecurity">Insecurity</a></li>
  <li><a href="#interference">Interference</a></li>
<!--<li><a href="#jails">Jails</a></li>-->
  <li><a href="#sabotage">Sabotage</a></li>
  <li><a href="#surveillance">Surveillance</a></li>
  <li><a href="#tyrants">Tyrants</a></li>

<h3 id="back-doors">Back Doors</h3>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202004130">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>The <a href="https://www.google.com/mobile/android/market-tos.html"> href="https://play.google.com/about/play-terms/">
    Google Play Terms of Service</a> insist that the user of Android accept
    the presence of universal back doors in apps released by Google.</p>

    <p>This does not tell us whether any of Google's apps currently
    contains a universal back door, but that is a secondary question.
    In moral terms, demanding that people accept in advance certain bad
    treatment is equivalent to actually doing it.  Whatever condemnation
    the latter deserves, the former deserves the same.</p>

  <li id="M201908220">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>ChromeBooks are programmed for obsolescence:
    ChromeOS has a universal back door that is used for updates and <a
    ceases to operate at a predefined date</a>. From then on, there
    appears to be no support whatsoever for the computer.</p>

    <p>In other words, when you stop getting screwed by the back door,
    you start getting screwed by the obsolescence.</p>

  <li id="M201809140">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Android has a <a
    back door for remotely changing “user” settings</a>.</p>

    <p>The article suggests it might be a universal back door, but this
    isn't clear.</p>

  <li id="M201202280">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2012-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>ChromeOS has a universal back
    door. At least, Google says it does—in <a
    section 4 of the EULA</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201103070">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2011-03</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>In Android, <a
    Google has a back door to remotely delete apps</a>. (It was in a
    program called GTalkService, which seems since then to have been
    merged into Google Play.)</p>

    <p>Google can also <a
    forcibly and remotely install apps</a> through GTalkService.  This is
    not equivalent to a universal back door, but permits various dirty

    <p>Although Google's <em>exercise</em> of this power has not been
    malicious so far, the point is that nobody should have such power,
    which could also be used maliciously.  You might well decide to
    let a security service remotely <em>deactivate</em> programs that
    it considers malicious.  But there is no excuse for allowing it to
    <em>delete</em> the programs, and you should have the right to decide
    who (if anyone) to trust in this way.</p>

<h3 id="censorship">Censorship</h3>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M201703160">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-03</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google <a
    offers censorship software</a>, ostensibly for parents to put into
    their children's computers.</p>

  <li id="M201701180">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-01</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>On Windows and MacOS, Chrome <a
    disables extensions</a> that are not hosted in the Chrome Web

    <p>For example, an extension was <a
    banned from the Chrome Web Store, and permanently disabled</a> on
    more than 40,000 computers.</p>

  <li id="M201602030">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    Google censored installation of Samsung's ad-blocker</a> on Android
    phones, saying that blocking ads is “interference” with
    the sites that advertise (and surveil users through ads).</p>

    <p>The ad-blocker is proprietary software, just like the program
    (Google Play) that Google used to deny access to install it. Using
    a nonfree program gives the owner power over you, and Google has
    exercised that power.</p>

    <p>Google's censorship, unlike that of Apple, is not total: Android
    allows users to install apps in other ways. You can install free
    programs from f-droid.org.</p>

<h3 id="drm">DRM</h3>

<p>Digital restrictions management, or “DRM,” refers to
functionalities designed to restrict what users can do with the data
in their computers.</p>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M201705150">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-05</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google now allows Android
    apps to detect whether a device has been rooted, <a
    refuse to install if so</a>. The Netflix app uses this ability to
    enforce DRM by refusing to install on rooted Android devices.</p>

    <p>Update: Google <i>intentionally</i> changed Android so that apps <a
    detect rooted devices and refuse to run on them</a>. The Netflix app
    is proprietary malware, and one shouldn't use it. However, that does
    not make what Google has done any less wrong.</p>

  <li id="M201701300">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-01</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Chrome <a
    DRM</a>. So does Chromium, through nonfree software that is effectively
    part of it.</p>


  <li id="M201102250">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2011-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Android <a
    contains facilities specifically to support DRM</a>.</p>

<h3 id="insecurity">Insecurity</h3>

<p>These bugs are/were not intentional, so unlike the rest of the file
  they do not count as malware. We mention them to refute the
  supposition that prestigious proprietary software doesn't have grave

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202107180">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2021-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    The pegasus spyware used vulnerabilities on proprietary smartphone
    operating systems</a> to impose surveillance on people. It can record
    people's calls, copy their messages, and secretly film them, using a
    security vulnerability. There's also <a
 	a technical analysis of this spyware</a> available in PDF format.</p>

    <p>A free operating system would've let people to fix the bugs for
    themselves but now infected people will be compelled to wait for corporations to
    fix the problems.</p>

    <p><small>Please note that the article
    wrongly refers to crackers as “<a

  <li id="M202008110">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>TikTok <a
    exploited an Android vulnerability</a> to obtain user MAC

  <li id="M201907080">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Many Android apps can track
    users' movements even when the user says <a
    not to allow them access to locations</a>.</p>

    <p>This involves an apparently unintentional weakness in Android,
    exploited intentionally by malicious apps.</p>

  <li id="M201311120">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    The NSA can tap data in smart phones, including iPhones,
    Android, and BlackBerry</a>.  While there is not much
    detail here, it seems that this does not operate via
    the universal back door that we know nearly all portable
    phones have. It may involve exploiting various bugs.  There are <a
    lots of bugs in the phones' radio software</a>.</p>

<h3 id="interference">Interference</h3>

<p>This section gives examples of Google software harassing or annoying
the user, or causing trouble for the user.  These actions are like
sabotage but the word “sabotage” is too strong for them.</p>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202106190">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2021-06</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    automatically installed an app on many proprietary Android phones</a>. The app
    might or might not do malicious things but the power Google has over proprietary
    Android phones is dangerous.</p>

  <li id="M201901230">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-01</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google is modifying Chromium so that <a
    extensions won't be able to alter or block whatever the page
    contains</a>. Users could conceivably reverse the change in a fork
    of Chromium, but surely Chrome (nonfree) will have the same change,
    and users can't fix it there.</p>

<h3 id="sabotage">Sabotage</h3>

<p>The wrongs in this section are not precisely malware, since they do
not involve making the program that runs in a way that hurts the user.
But they are a lot like malware, since they are technical Google
actions that harm the users of specific Google software.</p>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202011060">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>A new app published by Google <a
    banks and creditors deactivate people's Android devices</a> if they
    fail to make payments. If someone's device gets deactivated, it will
    be limited to basic functionality, such as emergency calling and
    access to settings.</p>

  <li id="M201604050">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Revolv is a device that managed “smart home”
    operations: switching lights, operate motion sensors, regulating
    temperature, etc.  Its proprietary software depends on a remote server
    to do these tasks.  On May 15th, 2016, Google/Alphabet <a
    broke it by shutting down the server</a>.</p>

    <p>If it were free software, users would have the ability to make it
    work again, differently, and then have a freedom-respecting home
    instead of a “smart” home. Don't let proprietary software
    control your devices and turn them into $300 out-of-warranty
    bricks. Insist on self-contained computers that run free software!</p>

  <li id="M201511244">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2015-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google has long had <a
    back door to remotely unlock an Android device</a>, unless its disk
    is encrypted (possible since Android 5.0 Lollipop, but still not
    quite the default).</p>

<h3 id="surveillance">Surveillance</h3>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M202109210">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2021-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google's proprietary Chrome web browser <a
    added a surveillance API (idle detection API)</a> which lets
    websites ask Chrome to report when a user with a web page open is

  <li id="M202102160">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2021-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google <a
    over personal data of Indian protesters and activists to Indian
    police</a> which led to their arrest. The cops requested the IP
    address and the location where a document was created and with that
    information, they identified protesters and activists.</p>

  <li id="M202008030">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Nest <a
    is taking over ADT</a>. Google sent out a software
    update to its speaker devices using their back door <a
    href="https://www.protocol.com/google-smart-speaker-alarm-adt"> that
    listens for things like smoke alarms</a> and then notifies your phone
    that an alarm is happening. This means the devices now listen for more
    than just their wake words. Google says the software update was sent
    out prematurely and on accident and Google was planning on disclosing
    this new feature and offering it to customers who pay for it.</p>

  <li id="M202004301">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Proprietary programs Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx <a
    collecting user's personal and identifiable data</a> including how long
    a call lasts, who's participating in the call, and the IP addresses
    of everyone taking part. From experience, this can even harm users
    physically if those companies hand over data to governments.</p>

  <li id="M202004131">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2020-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google, Apple, and Microsoft (and probably some other companies)
    <a href="https://www.lifewire.com/wifi-positioning-system-1683343">are
    collecting people's access points and GPS coordinates (which can
    identify people's precise location) even if their GPS is turned
    off</a>, without the person's consent, using proprietary software
    implemented in person's smartphone. Though merely asking for permission
    would not necessarily legitimize this.</p>

  <li id="M201907210">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google “Assistant” records users' conversations <a
    when it is not supposed to listen</a>. Thus, when one of Google's
    subcontractors discloses a thousand confidential voice recordings,
    users were easily identified from these recordings.</p>

    <p>Since Google “Assistant” uses proprietary software, there is no
    way to see or control what it records or sends.</p>

    <p>Rather than trying to better control the use of recordings, Google
    should not record or listen to the person's voice.  It should only
    get commands that the user wants to send to some Google service.</p>

  <li id="M201906220">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-06</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Chrome is an <a
    instrument of surveillance</a>. It lets thousands of trackers invade
    users' computers and report the sites they visit to advertising and
    data companies, first of all to Google. Moreover, if users have a
    Gmail account, Chrome automatically logs them in to the browser for
    more convenient profiling. On Android, Chrome also reports their
    location to Google.</p>

    <p>The best way to escape surveillance is to switch to <a
    href="/software/icecat/">IceCat</a>, a modified version of Firefox
    with several changes to protect users' privacy.</p>

  <li id="M201904130">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google tracks the movements of Android phones and iPhones
    running Google apps, and sometimes <a
    saves the data for years</a>.</p>

    <p>Nonfree software in the phone has to be responsible for sending
    the location data to Google.</p>

  <li id="M201902040">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2019-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google invites people to <a
    let Google monitor their phone use, and all internet use in their
    homes, for an extravagant payment of $20</a>.</p>

    <p>This is not a malicious functionality of a program with some other
    purpose; this is the software's sole purpose, and Google says so. But
    Google says it in a way that encourages most people to ignore the
    details. That, we believe, makes it fitting to list here.</p>

  <li id="M201811230">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>An Android phone was observed to track location even while
    in airplane mode. It didn't send the location data while in
    airplane mode.  Instead, <a
    it saved up the data, and sent them all later</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201809121">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Tiny Lab Productions, along with online ad businesses run
    by Google, Twitter and three other companies are facing a lawsuit <a
    violating people's privacy by collecting their data from mobile games
    and handing over these data to other companies/advertisers</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201808131">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    will track people even if people turn off location history</a>, using
    Google Maps, weather updates, and browser searches. Google basically
    uses any app activity to track people.</p>

  <li id="M201808130">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Since the beginning of 2017, <a
    phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular
    towers</a>, even when location services are disabled, and sending
    that data back to Google.</p>

  <li id="M201808030">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2018-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Some Google apps on Android <a
    record the user's location even when users disable “location

    <p>There are other ways to turn off the other kinds of location
    tracking, but most users will be tricked by the misleading control.</p>

  <li id="M201711210">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-11</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Android tracks location for Google <a
    even when “location services” are turned off, even when
    the phone has no SIM card</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201704131">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2017-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Low-priced Chromebooks for schools are <a
    collecting far more data on students than is necessary, and store
    it indefinitely</a>. Parents and students complain about the lack
    of transparency on the part of both the educational services and the
    schools, the difficulty of opting out of these services, and the lack
    of proper privacy policies, among other things.</p>

    <p>But complaining is not sufficient. Parents, students and teachers
    should realize that the software Google uses to spy on students is
    nonfree, so they can't verify what it really does. The only remedy is
    to persuade school officials to <a href="/education/edu-schools.html">
    exclusively use free software</a> for both education and school
    administration. If the school is run locally, parents and teachers
    can mandate their representatives at the School Board to refuse the
    budget unless the school initiates a switch to free software. If
    education is run nation-wide, they need to persuade legislators
    (e.g., through free software organizations, political parties,
    etc.) to migrate the public schools to free software.</p>

  <li id="M201609210">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google's new voice messaging app <a
    all conversations</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201609140">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2016-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Play (a component of Android) <a
    tracks the users' movements without their permission</a>.</p>

    <p>Even if you disable Google Maps and location tracking, you must
    disable Google Play itself to completely stop the tracking.  This is
    yet another example of nonfree software pretending to obey the user,
    when it's actually doing something else.  Such a thing would be almost
    unthinkable with free software.</p>

  <li id="M201507280">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2015-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Chrome makes it easy for an extension to do <a
    snooping on the user's browsing</a>, and many of them do so.</p>

  <li id="M201506180">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2015-06</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Chrome includes a module that <a
    activates microphones and transmits audio to its servers</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201407170">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2014-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p id="nest-thermometers">Nest thermometers send <a
    href="https://bgr.com/general/google-nest-jailbreak-hack/">a lot of
    data about the user</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201308040">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Chrome <a
    spies on browser history, affiliations</a>, and other installed

  <li id="M201308010">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Spyware in Android phones (and Windows? laptops): The Wall Street
    Journal (in an article blocked from us by a paywall) reports that <a
    the FBI can remotely activate the GPS and microphone in Android phones
    and laptops</a> (presumably Windows laptops).  Here is <a
    href="https://cryptome.org/2013/08/fbi-hackers.htm">more info</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201307280">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Spyware is present in some Android devices when they are
    sold.  Some Motorola phones, made when this company was owned
    by Google, use a modified version of Android that <a
    sends personal data to Motorola</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201307250">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-07</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>A Motorola phone <a
    listens for voice all the time</a>.</p>

  <li id="M201302150">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-02</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Play intentionally sends app developers <a
    the personal details of users that install the app</a>.</p>

    <p>Merely asking the “consent” of users is not enough to
    legitimize actions like this.  At this point, most users have stopped
    reading the “Terms and Conditions” that spell out what
    they are “consenting” to.  Google should clearly and
    honestly identify the information it collects on users, instead of
    hiding it in an obscurely worded EULA.</p>

    <p>However, to truly protect people's privacy, we must prevent Google
    and other companies from getting this personal information in the
    first place!</p>

  <li id="M201208210">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2012-08</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Many web sites report all their visitors
    to Google by using the Google Analytics service, which <a
    tells Google the IP address and the page that was visited</a>.</p>

  <li id="M200809060">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2008-09</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Google Chrome contains a key logger that <a
    sends Google every URL typed in</a>, one key at a time.</p>

<h3 id="tyrants">Tyrants</h3>

<p>Tyrants are systems that reject any operating system not 
“authorized” by the manufacturer.</p>

<ul class="blurbs">
  <li id="M201304080">
    <!--#set var="DATE" value='<small class="date-tag">2013-04</small>'
    --><!--#echo encoding="none" var="DATE" -->
    <p>Motorola, then owned by Google, made <a
    Android phones that are tyrants</a> (though someone found a way to
    crack the restriction).</p>

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<p class="unprintable">Updated:
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$Date: 2022/04/13 16:39:58 $
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