The Chrome mobile app asks for permission to audio/video record ‘at any time, without your confirmation’

Will the real Big Brother please stand up?

The update for the Google Chrome mobile app for Android needs to obtain the permission of the user to a new clause in the Terms and Conditions for its functioning, under “Hardware controls”, which raises extremely serious privacy concerns: if granted, the updated app will have permission to record audio with the microphone at any time without the user’s confirmation and also take pictures and videos with the camera at any time without the user’s confirmation.

Does this mean that the telephone conversations can be recorded at Chrome’s will whenever the app runs in the background? Does it mean that it can also record sounds from the phone’s surroundings, again, at Chrome’s will? Does it mean that at “any time” the camera of the phone can start, at Chrome’s will, to record anything out there? Where are these recordings stored? Who has access to these recordings? Does the user even find out such recordings are/were happening? These are questions which need answers. The words in the terms and conditions for the updated app were very few. And worrying.

chrome t_cAs this blog post starts from a personal experience, unfortunately I do not have more information on this issue. I don’t know whether such a clause already exists in the Terms and Conditions of other Google Apps, or other apps, but I find it almost unbelievable (under the terms the clause was expressed in). “At any time” is a very powerful legal description of a context, as it basically encompasses every possible time and situation. “Without your confirmation” is another powerful wording, as it suggests that the user can be literally spied on. Needles to be said, such an approach breaks at least several provisions of the EU Data Protection Directive (and the national implementation laws, obviously), such as the lawful basis for processing rules, the right of the data subject to be informed, purpose limitation rules.

As I am not a techy, I have no idea which are the technical conditions for a mobile app to be able to take photos and video/audio record with my phone without me knowing when it does so. It might not even be possible. But if it is not possible, why is Google Chrome asking me if I allow it to do this at any time, without my confirmation? And if it is possible, why on Earth does Google Chrome need to take photos with my camera and record sounds and conversations with it?

Screenshot_2013-06-08-22-25-45I looked at the specifications for what the updated version of the app brings new and nothing looks like the app needs photos, video and audio recordings to function. Under “What’s new”, Google writes: * full screen on phones – Scroll to hide the toolbar, * simplified search – View and refine your query directly in the omnibox, * tab history on tablets – Long press the browser’s back button to view your tab history, * several stability improvements. That is all. Perhaps audio recordings help with the stability issues? (kidding).

Therefore, if any of you, frequent or occasional readers, can enlighten me on any of these issues, I will be grateful. In the meantime, I have not updated the Chrome app on my phone.

The exact wording from the terms and conditions:

Record audio

Allows the app to record audio with the microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.

Take pictures and videos

Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

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5 responses to “The Chrome mobile app asks for permission to audio/video record ‘at any time, without your confirmation’

  1. Yes, I find this permissions thing just as ludicrous. The developers will tell you it’s for this or that reason, but we all know they wouldn’t be putting it in the “update permissions” if they didn’t have some real motivation behind it…. like that Google works for the government (how else could they afford to design a car with cameras on it, then pay people to drive it around all over the world) and the government needs the data to spy on you (for the sake of the war on terror).

    I just put electrical tape over both front facing and rear facing cameras. I don’t know what to do about the “recording audio” permissions. And my life is so busy I don’t really care who’s watching me, really. But as an American, and as an engineer, this thing is about principle and therefore is not acceptable.

    Finally, I uninstalled Chrome and then installed Opera. For some reason I didn’t see any permission request from Opera install for this camera/mic thing. Even though a search online returned the Opera permissions for camera/mic.

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  2. Pingback: Article of the day: The Chrome mobile app asks for permission to audio/video record ‘at any time, without your confirmation’ | Ender's Blog

  3. Google Take The Piss

    I keep telling people that if they put all their eggs in a Google-branded basket, then they’re asking for trouble. Google’s taken the power to it’s head and is now taking the piss completely.

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  4. Nice blogs
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  5. Until today, 9/12/17, I had the microphone in chrome app on my Samsung 6 cellphone, but it weirdly asked me to give permission for it to “record” I responded ‘No’ and checked the box ‘do not ask again’ … and lost the microphone. Settings / privacy / microphone does not give me a option to change anything.
    I want that chrome microphone back.
    But my phone settings don’t offer a way to get it back. …. Help! Please.

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