Google closes loophole on non-Play store updates for Android apps

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has revised its Android developer terms and conditions to close a loophole that allowed Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) to upgrade its social networking app without leveraging the Google Play storefront's update mechanisms.

Last month, Android device owners with the Facebook app installed on their phone received an update prompt transmitted directly from Facebook, not Google Play. The persistent notification let users know an upgraded version of the app was available, and clicking the notification took them directly to the app to download it. The update included 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.

"We're working quickly to improve Facebook for Android and want to make sure everyone is using the best version of our app," Facebook explained. "You'll experience these updates when you are on Wi-Fi, and they won't rely on your data plan."

The Google Play Developer Program Policies have always blocked "applications that cause users to unknowingly download or install applications from sources outside of Google Play," but a new sentence added to its "Dangerous Products' section states "An app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism."

Google's move should appease critics who argued that hackers could circumvent Google Play by following the Facebook update template. Malware attacks on Android devices more than doubled in 2012, security solutions firm NQ Mobile reported last week: Among all new malware discovered last year, 94.8 percent of threats were designed to attack Android, compared to just 4 percent targeting rival open-source platform Symbian. In all, more than 32.8 million Android devices were infected in 2012, up from 10.8 million in 2011, an increase of more than 200 percent.

For more:
- read this Verge article

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