Can Google and Apple remotely install apps on your phone?
Google has the ability to remotely install apps on your phone without your explicit permission or even any notification. That’s the lesson from the puzzling âMassNotifyâ rollout in June 2021. But how does it work? And what about Apple iPhones?
On Android, MassNotify arrived automatically
The deployment of MassNotify is instructive. According to user reports, the MassNotify COVID-19 exposure notifications app was automatically installed on many Android smartphones around June 19, 2021. It appears that the app was automatically installed on almost all Android smartphones from the State of Massachusetts and select Android phones. Beyond that.
âWhile I believe in what this app was supposed to do, installing it without even a notification is extremely alarming,â one user wrote in a review of the app on the Google Play Store. The app doesn’t even have an app icon to let users know it’s installed.
Google told news site 9to5Google that the automatic installation of the app was intentional and that the app wouldn’t do anything unless a user chose to enable it.
This is particularly odd because no other COVID-19 exposure app seems to work this way. All other apps are installed when you, as the user, choose to enable exposure notifications.
So, under what circumstances will Google remotely install an app on your phone? Did Google check the app’s code for security issues before distributing it? Google doesn’t say much, but it’s clear that Google has the ability to remotely install Android apps.
You can also install applications remotely
While we don’t know that Google has ever installed an app remotely and silently this way on Android, you can remotely install apps on your own Android phone.
Simply go to the Google Play Store site, sign in with the same account you are signing in with on Android, and you can use the “Install” button on an app’s store page to upload it. on your phone. Your phone’s Play Store will start to download and install the app you want.
Unlike the situation around MassNotify, it’s not silent. You see a notification while installing the app.
Can Apple remotely install apps on an iPhone?
To our knowledge, Apple has never remotely installed an iPhone app on anyone’s phones in this way. In fact, iPhones work a little differently: To install an iPhone app, you need to go to the App Store on an iPhone and install the app. You can’t just log into a web browser with your Apple ID and click a button to install apps remotely like you can on Android.
Obviously, operating system updates can install apps
Of course, operating system updates can install new apps on your device. You can install a new version of iOS for iPhone to find a new app, like the Apple Watch app or Apple News app. You can install a new Android update to find a new Google app on your phone.
However, we are not aware that any third party apps not written by Google or Apple have been installed this way, especially not outside of normal operating system updates!
Both companies can remove applications remotely
It should be noted that Google and Apple can remotely remove apps from your phone if they wish. This capability was created to protect devices from malware. If a terrible malicious app sneaks into Google Play or Apple’s App Store and is downloaded by millions of people, both companies want a kill switch they can turn on to turn off the app remotely.
While we know Apple can remotely disable apps installed on iPhones, we don’t know Apple is using this capability as of June 2021.
It’s not like Windows 10 PCs are much different
Of course, it’s not as if the problems of remotely installed apps are limited to smartphones. They also occur on Windows 10. Design company FTDI has repeatedly used Windows Update to push drivers that âbrickâ (disable) counterfeit hardware.
Applications like candy Crush, Facebook and FarmCity keep showing up on Windows 10 PCs whether you like them or not.
Windows 10 has been teaching PC users this lesson for years: It’s Microsoft’s PC, not yours, and Microsoft will install whatever it wants.
RELATED: Hey Microsoft, stop installing apps on my PC without asking
What matters most: technical skills or culture?
All that being said, even though a company like Apple cannot install apps remotely – and it looks like Apple may not be able to install apps remotely on iPhones at the moment – this company could deploy a small update to the operating system that the company has the ability to do.
This operating system update would likely be installed automatically. After all, these automatic updates are good for security reasons.
Perhaps what matters most is the culture of a company. Rather than asking if a company can remotely install apps on our devices, we should ask if the company has a habit of doing this.
Google and Microsoft both remotely installed third-party applications without user consent. Apple hasn’t done it yet.
Then again, Apple once added a U2 album to everyone’s iTunes libraries. Nobody is perfect.