That picture you may have just sent to your wife or girlfriend while they were out of town may not be safe from other apps and your Android operating system. There is growing concern over photos taken with any smartphone, be it an Android phone, iPhone or even Blackberry.
Some folks are trying to make a big stink out of the fact that the operating system of your smartphone has access to the photos on the phones storage. This is no different than the operating system having access to the photos stored on your hard drive or any storage medium connected to your computer.
Yes, technically speaking, any app or software on your computer could access your photos stored on your computer. By default on most computers, you’ve probably noticed if you search for something across the entire computer, you inherently get a bunch of photos too. Take the song Imagine by John Lennon. On most computers if you type just IM you may get hundreds of IMG photos which are the default for some cameras before you change the name of a picture.
More after the break
Segueing back to your smartphone, the file structure is very similar. Apple has recently come under fire for the fact that if a malicious app wanted access to your photos they would have it. A real easy way to show this would be by taking an app like box.com for instance. Most of these cloud sharing apps ask if you want your photos instantly uploaded to the cloud. When they do this they query all possible photo files on your device.
Google has explained this process to theverge.com:
We originally designed the Android photos file system similar to those of other computing platforms like Windows and Mac OS. 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, non-removable 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.
Now the easiest way to eliminate the risk is to either not take risque photos or if you do, you may want to move the photo off to your computer (which isn’t really any more secure), and delete it from your phones memory.
We’ll have to see what happens when Google starts adding those permissions.