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Google rejects spy-happy Android app

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Application security programs and practises

Google has decided that eavesdropping is a step too far for even Android's laissez-faire attitude to application vetting, and rejected such an app despite waving it through first time.

Secret SMS Replicator was initially approved by Google and listed in the Android Marketplace, but Switched explains that 18 hours later the application was pulled and is now only available in its less-secret incarnation as a back-up tool, showing that even Google feels unwarranted interception of communications is a little bit too evil.

SMS Replicator sends a copy of every SMS received to a selected number, and the Secret version provides no indication on the user's phone that such a copy has been made - making it ideal for those wishing to spy on partners or children without all that mucking about with hats and false moustaches.

Such applications already exist on mobiles, with some capable of recording phone calls as well as messages; but this is notable thanks to Google's approval, and subsequent removal from the Android Marketplace.

Symbian Signed has approved such applications in the past, making it clear that it doesn't consider moral judgements to be part of its remit. One can be pretty certain that Apple would allow no such thing even if the lack of multitasking on iOS would make it technically difficult anyway.

Google has always applied the lightest of touches to the Android Marketplace, but by rejecting Secret SMS Replicator the company has shown that there is a line it won't cross.

Not that this means the application will go away: Android apps don't have to be approved, and with the paranoid doing the installation on their partner's temporarily-purloined handset, no on-screen warnings about unsigned applications are going to discourage installation. The developer, DLP Mobile, doesn't have Secret SMS Replicator listed for direct sale yet, but we can't imagine there's anything more than the necessary billing system that's holding them back.

So the message is clear - if you want to keep your affair secret than you need to have an iPhone, or something equally well locked down. Android users will just have to stay faithful, or take their chances. ®

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