Both iOS and Android give developers access to photos: one is a bug, the other a feature

Daniel Bader

March 1, 2012 6:08pm

It was discovered this week that due to a bug in Apple’s iOS which may have been introduced in 2010 with iOS 4, a third-party developer could obtain access to your entire Photo Roll by merely requesting your location. According to the NYTimes’ Nick Bilton, who was scooped on the bug, a developer must explicitly ask permission for a user’s location, but doing so inadvertently allows the app to manipulate, even delete, existing photos on the device. Apple has been informed of the bug and, though they have not said anything official (as they did for the contact list controversy) they are rumoured to be working on a fix.

Google, on the other hand, has the same issue, but it is not a bug but a feature. The company takes the opposite approach to Apple’s so-called “walled garden,” giving developers access to photos and video in order to allow them to be shared. Android tends to store your photos in the ‘DCIM’ folder under the /SDCard. This was done in order to ensure developers who wanted to implement these share features could do so from a removable SD card. Back when Android was young and memory not so cheap, internal memory was small and users tended to rely on external memory for extra space. Now that this is no longer the case, Google has issued a statement to say they’re “taking another look at [it].”

We originally designed the Android photos file system similar to those of other computing platforms like Windows and Mac OS. At the time, images were stored on a SD card, making it easy for someone to remove the SD card from a phone and put it in a computer to view or transfer those images.

As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, non-removable memory, we’re taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images. We’ve always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data.

Many new Android devices such as the Galaxy Nexus and upcoming HTC One X and One S do not have external memory, as Ice Cream Sandwich makes uses a phone’s entire internal storage for apps and media alike. Considering most phones come with at least 16GB, this isn’t proving to be a problem.

Nevertheless, it’s incumbent on Google, especially with the launch of its new privacy policy, to take no chances on a user’s data. Android is already famous for malware apps stealing customer information through tricks; one less loophole means fewer claims of insecurity.

Source: New York Times (2)
Via: The Verge

  • IAK

    I am a huge fan of attempting to trick my ipad and iphone to give me usb access to my photos. It’s super awkward.

  • Wat?

    Soon you will see your personal picture everywhere, thanks to Google Super Feature. This with their new Privacy Change and we’re set for a new monster.
    But you will say : Google will not sell this to ad company, they can’t do that.
    Well, they don’t have to because.. ? THEY own 99% of all the internet ads

    • HO

      …at least I know what they do, unlike other fruity companies that try to keep things from me, don’t forget that food u have today, it was planned by mApple for u to have it since they know where u go every day!!!

    • Zomby

      You do realize that 100% of home computers have the same feature as the Android phones do right? You’re so worried about Google getting a hold of your vacation pictures from your phone but think nothing of the fact that ANY app could do the same on your home PC/Mac. It is a bug on iOS because it was designed not to be readable by other apps while on Android it’s designed to be in an available location like it is on any other computer.

  • WhoCares

    No surprise android is the one with the bug…

    • B.W.

      Did you even read the article? It’s iOS that has the bug, on Android it’s an intentional feature.

    • Dimitri.k

      IF you can read it says ” BOTH IOS & ANDROID”. So that means even Apple has this problem for the so called best software they have. Get out troll.

    • Rio

      Except Apple sees it as a bug and is going to fix it, where as androids so called ‘feature’ lets developers take their pics.

      Lol so backwards

    • Zomby

      @Rio Apple sees it as a bug becaus they tried to prevent users from accessing the photos from other apps and it’s not working. Google can’t see it as a bug since it’s been designed that way from the get-go, just like your home computer. Yes, all apps to wich you grant file-reading access can see your pictures. That’s why I can have a photo-editing software on my phone/tablet that can edit my camera photos.

    • Rio

      At the end of the day we are talking about developers having access to your photos.

      Apple apps are able to edit photos from my library as well except they ask for permission first.

  • Mathieu

    Wow, big news … Android apps can read the SHARED on the device and thus access photos taken by the default Camera app!

    If you don’t like it, you can always use another Camera app that stores the photo in app PRIVATE storage.

  • Ted

    This is why you don’t bu an Iphone. And only buy pure google android phones like Nexus s, Galaxy Nexus your privacy is kept. Go Samsung Go. Iphones have so many bugs. Like the najor lawsuit that happened against Apple for the location GPS bug issue that kept your location saved on the Apples Servers and they sold this info to Companies.

  • Whitney Young

    Wow. Such a pathetic iOS bashing article. I expect better from Mobilesyrup.

    • Zomby

      Not iOS bashing, just thruth-speaking. Apple designed iOS in such a way that apps weren’t supposed to have access to your camera photos. It’s buggy and doesn’t work.

      Google designed Android to save photos on your SD card (just like any other digital camera) and those files are available to any app for wich you grant access to file storage. On your home PC/Mac, any app could access your pictures yet no one complains about it.

  • Whitney Young

    @wat? Is correct Google doesn’t have to sell your personal data to an Ad Company cause Google IS AN AD COMPANY.

  • Someguy

    Feature….. LMAO. What a joke.

    • Zomby

      Yes, saving the photos in an area where you can easily get to them is a feature. It was designed that way, just like your home computer. And I’m mighty glad it’s done that way, otherwise my photo editing app could not edit the pictures I’ve taken with the camera. The only reason it’s considered a bug on iOS is because Apple actually designed it to be unavailable and it doesn’t work.

  • Netguru

    So this morning MS posted an article about the SnapTax app for iPhone and iPad. All you have to do is snap a picture of your T4… Now this article informs us of a bug that exposes your photo roll to developers. Great! How long before iOS users end up seeing their T4s all over the internet?

    Simply unbelievable.

  • GrimConch

    “Don’t download untrustworthy applications” doesn’t stop applying when your computer fits in your hand. Blaming the OS wont help.

  • Trinity


    Haven’t you heard? Bugs never occur on Apple. Heck, when they fix these ‘supposed’, Apple doesn’t even both up change their release number to reflect that. They simply say, just redownload verion 4.0.1 again. No difference in it but you will notice some features that have been improved. lol.

    Apple and its customers are probably the most delusional people on this planet. Funny to watch them say the things they do but after a while, you start feeling bad for them because you realize that they really don’t have a clue.