Newsroom News Breaking Comics Tags
News hardware & software 04 January 2019, 17:37

author: Lazlo

Android Messages receives anti-spam filter, raises privacy concerns

The default application for sending SMS on Android receives an anti-spam filter. To protect us from unwanted content, it will analyze incoming and outgoing messages and phone numbers, which raises understandable concerns about privacy protection.

Android Messages receives anti-spam filter, raises privacy concerns - picture #1
Antispam filter SMS in Android Messages – a function as much awaited as it is controversial.

Google has confirmed that the default Android messaging application (Android Messages) will become protected against unwanted messages. As reported by the Android Police website, the first users received access to the new feature before the New Year.

Google is yet to confirm the date when the feature will become available to all users, but it is said that the update will be implemented gradually – initially, in several countries, then available globally. The automatic spam filter is going to be enabled by default in the new version of the app, but it will be possible to deactivate it in the advanced settings.

The application informs users about the new functionality and about the fact that from now on, it will analyze incoming messages for unwanted content. However, the appearance of such novelties has raised concerns about the protection of sensitive data, such as telephone numbers.

A complicated matter

Google representatives have addressed concerns about privacy as well as the way in which the application tracks and stores messages. Users can report messages as spam themselves, but the application will also collect phone numbers in the background. The Verge inquired about the details of the functioning of the entire mechanism, to which Google response was:

{cytat}To help identify spammers, Google temporarily stores the phone numbers of people sending and receiving messages with you and the times they messaged with you, but does not store your phone number or the content of these messages.{/cytat}

On Google's help pages, where information about spamming and privacy protection has been updated, we may read that if you choose to manually flag a message as spam, you will also submit the full content of that message to Google. When suspicious messages are detected, the application may also ask you to send a report, to which up to 10 messages from that number may be attached. It also turns out that mobile telecommunication networks that will support spam reporting will be able to receive a separate copy of the last message, along with the suspicious phone number.

Android Messages receives anti-spam filter, raises privacy concerns - picture #2
Say hello to your new filter.

What if?

But what if text messages are sent between two users protected from spam? In this case, the numbers of both users should theoretically be remembered. Google claims, however, that the data should be appropriately masked in order to prevent them from being associated.

The battle with spam in SMS messages is still in full swing. The Federal Communications Commission in the USA has taken serious steps in this regard, recognizing text messaging as data transmission, which in practice gives operators in the US market more possibilities to block unwanted messages. Of course, consumer rights defenders immediately voiced their concerns, stating that such law provides telecommunication operators with too much freedom and is a threat to freedom of expression. However, this likely is just the beginning of a longer and more serious discussion about the protection of privacy in the digital world.

Google’s Android powers over 2 billion active mobile devices.

See/Add Comments