Facebook bypasses Google Play to update Android app

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is urging users to install an updated version of its social networking application for Android, sidestepping the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play storefront in the process.

Liliputing first reported that Android device owners with the Facebook app installed on their phone are receiving an update prompt transmitted directly from Facebook, not Google Play. The persistent notification lets users know an upgraded version of the app is available, and clicking the notification takes them directly to the app to download it. The update includes a permission granting Facebook the authority to install subsequent updates without notifying the user, as well as new options to change profile photos, hide stories and report spam.

Some Android users turned to Facebook's Help Page to verify the authenticity of the alert, with one writing "This is highly concerning to me as it seems to look like malware of some sort. I would not normally expect an update to the Facebook application be pushed out in any method other than the official Play store." A Facebook product manager soon confirmed the update's origins, and the company later posted "We're working quickly to improve Facebook for Android and want to make sure everyone is using the best version of our app. You'll experience these updates when you are on Wi-Fi, and they won't rely on your data plan."

As The Verge points out, it is still unclear why Facebook opted to forgo the Google Play channel to push the update--moreover, the decision raises questions about security, given that a hacker presumably could circumvent Google Play in a similar manner.

Also unknown: Whether Google granted Facebook authorization to forgo Google Play update protocols. The store's terms of service reject Android apps "that cause users to unknowingly download or install applications from sources outside of Google Play." Neither Facebook nor Google has responded to requests for comment.

For more:
- read this Verge article
- read this Liliputing article

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