Google Bans SMS Spying App From Android Market



Earlier this week DLP Mobile launched Secret SMS Replicator, an application that is installed on a host phone and secretly forwards SMS messages to another handset. The function of the app didn’t sit well with Google, and in a move fairly atypical of the way apps are handled in the Android Market, Google has removed the application.

Their reasoning is that the app “violates the Android Market Content Policy,” and we tend to agree. Yes, the move by Google to ban the application will once again open up a raging debate about the open nature of the platform, but come on. If you want to spy on people and be a sketchy you can install the APK from a third party source, but why make it so easy for security to be compromised right in the Android Market?

[via BGR]

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  1. First ? Totally agree

  2. First people complain about how open the market is and now they’re complaining how closed it is..

  3. You should make the distinction that the market is not the platform. Since the platform (by default until carriers mess it up) allows for installation of applications from sources other than the Market, the platform is not closed to this application. It is simply banned from Google’s proprietary app distribution channel.

    Market is not open, Google never made any statement that it is. It is a closed source application, the way it operates is secretive and it is completely controlled and owned by Google.

    But the platform is open, in fact you can install any alternative market you want.

    Also to note that as far as I know, every Android phone can be used for application development, which means even carriers that block easy sideloading don’t prevent the adb install, so ultimately if you want to get an app on your phone you can.

  4. Where can I get the .apk? :)

  5. Also – It’s stupid to ban this app. It’s a useful tool for parents who want to check up on their kids shenanigans.

  6. That being so stjedi, think where it could be abused too, would you like it if someone was reading your texts without your knowledge? I sure as hell wouldn’t?

  7. You know…if something happens to a friend or your child. Particularly assaults, rapes, etc….sumtimes events arent always remembered. But if you have a timeline of txt messages to support(with possible info) then this is a good idea.

    Perhaps its a bad idea to download from a market…but maybe this has a place in the Carriers App dept..considering you can pay for GPS monitoring already.

  8. Google makes it too easy to write an app. Even my wife can write it.

  9. stjedi, that is ridiculous and I am glad you are not my dad.

  10. Thank god they removed this.. That’s just plain creepy! lol..

    We need to have android apps closely watched for these type of stupid apps. Good job Google!

  11. I agree that Google is being too strict with the market in the last few months.

  12. My mistress and I are very happy to hear this…

  13. Maybe I don’t understand all the technology behind this, but it looks to me like this is just call forwarding for SMS. It has to be installed on the host phone, so, if you have your phone locked, how would anyone else put this on your phone, or use it secretly without your knowledge?

  14. Im so agree with google, spying on some one? come on people , and if you wanna check your kids you can use latitude which is totally free or if you wanna read your kids text ( which is stupid ) you can ask the career to give you that option , some people just wanna complain about everything!

  15. the android OS is opensource. the market, on the other hand, is google’s own personal store. they have terms and conditions, and all developers have to agree to them when using the market. if they break that agreement, then their apps are subject to deletion. simply put, if you don’t want your app to be deleted, then either keep it within the agreement or don’t put it on the market! the OS is opensource, the market is not. nobody is keeping you from releasing your apps for the android devices, you just have to find somewhere else to release it!

  16. People complaining here about it being removed really need to take a step back and think about it. What happens if Google lets this app continue on? Whats going to stop more apps from adding these types of features and hiding there uses from the public. Its a genuine security risk and is being dealt with appropriately.

  17. Wow… everyone needs to take a step back.. First NOTHING was hidden. The app itself was designed to be an SMS forwarder, that’s all. It was not some ‘other app’ with secret sms forwarding agenda.

    I honestly don’t think it should have been removed at all, so long as the app was up front about the purpose of the app. There are all sorts of PC apps for parents to monitor your childs emails, this is nothing new. hell I even saw something about a phone app for the SAME purpose, to log calls, texts, emails and pictures on the camera.

    The only potential security risk (if you want to call it that) is if someone installed it on your phone without your knowledge, and you neglected to see it running. (which is easy to miss given androids handling of running apps). However to those people I say… “Don’t you lock your phone????” No one would ever be able to install an app on my phone without my knowledge, pure and simple.

    If a parent decides to install this to monitor thier kids text messages, so be it.. imagine how many parents would have been glad if they would have been able to keep their teenage sons from become registered sexual offenders for texting classmates pics!

    I don’t see how this violates any sort of rule, and if such a rule exists it should be re-examined. After all I can acomplish the exact same function of this app with many other apps already in use, such as Tasker or other task based event managers. Imagine the havoc someone could do to a phone with tasker installed, omg the horror! Pfftt..

  18. If Google blocks that app then they should be blocking countless other apps too. That ain’t the first app that can fwd text messages and it won’t be the last.

  19. My two cents. I don’t really give a crap about the Market, I can take it or leave it (leave it more often than not of late, thanks to some weird currency issues) but as far as I can tell this application replicates call forwarding…but with text messages? Call forwarding which has been built into phones and networks themselves for decades?

  20. DroidGnome makes a pretty good point too. Tasker can do anything. Plug it into the SL4A or whatever it’s called now and you could really spy on someone. Or just run a good ol’ rm -r…

  21. People may not understand that that app is basically opening a backdoor, similar to what hackers do when they compromise the security of a computer network. The concept is sleazy and can be abused. Its bad enough that the government can spy on everything you do, thanks to the patriot act.

  22. I think it was wrong for Google to remove this app from the market. The purpose of the app is clearly stated. Forcing people to install the app from non-market sources causes the installation to be more secretive because the app won’t appear in My Downloads in the market.

    If someone installs it on your phone without your knowledge, shame on you, and perhaps you should examine your security settings and your choice of friends.

    I also think that Google has gone too far with removing functions from the API, or blocking apps from changing certain settings. I want GPS enabled when my phone is in the car dock, but Google removed this capability from the API, requiring developers to find workarounds or security holes to exploit. I’m afraid that apps like Tasker and Locale will slowly be crippled as Google makes it more difficult to automate things. To this I say, “what’s the point of having a smart phone if I have to do everything manually?”

  23. so i m sitting on the couch with my girl and i am reading this i start laugh because i just brought her the evo> then she goes what r u looking at> i didnt wanna tell cause she totally does not understand the android its a waste i got her to switch from a blackberry he fav app is shazam that the big thing for her on the evo and i would totally be able to run this app in her phone with out her know at all but i told her and then she started to think that it was already on her phone so we got into a fight her saying take it off and me saying it not in>>> get it >>>> any who i am thinking about doing it what do the good people at phandroid think of this

  24. Agree.

  25. Google has no choice but to withdraw it. What if someone gets hurt because of it? Potential lawsuits galore, esp in the USA!

  26. for you complainers its not like it can’t be installed, google doesn’t want to be responsible for its distribution.

  27. Can’t you do the same thing with SMS backup?

  28. @DroidGnome…
    So if my teenage son forwards a pic of his girlfriend and I get it because of this app, then what are the rules on me having child pornography on my phone? Will I get in trouble for NOT reporting him to the authorities?

    That could really go many different ways, I guess. And I’m not a lawyer so I have no idea where it could go. But I don’t really wanna get stuck in that situation.

    I have my daughters passwords for her Facebook, YouTube, and I have access to her phone when I want it. I snoop around every now and again just to make sure she’s alright and she knows I can pop in at anytime. But she deserves a certain amount of privacy and she gets it (for the most part). And when she’s 18, she’ll have total privacy.

  29. I think it is a good app. that should be marketed through the phone carrier and available to install on phones only on a family plan by the main account holder on phones used by their children under age of 18. There should also be an agreement signed for purpose of use and after age of 18 the app. gets uninstalled. Everyone has rights and things like those need to be regulated like firearms. Always two ways to look at things. Is the cup half full or half empty?

  30. Shannon also does have a point. Maybe an app. that only allows text and not picture which I’m sure is possible since one is SMS and the other is MMS. There are a lot of gray areas in parenting but we just hope we make the right decisions that keep our children safe. There are boundaries and even children have rights.

  31. Govermentcan do the same thing on anyone’s phone with cause. So if there is a good cause parents have rights to keep their children safe when they are still a minor

  32. @Shannon
    The rules about child ‘porn’/’pics’ on phones is not black and white, which is why we have 12 year olds on the sex offender list. Basically the general consensus is that receiving underage pics via a text message (which is what we’re talking about here), is not against the law. Sending it to another person is. The real question becomes what about ‘storeing’ it , and that’s where people get into trouble as the courts have to prove they knew it was on their device in addition to standard child porn rules (reasonability of knowing underage status etc..).

    In your case, if you know your daughter were to say forward a pic of herself to a boyfriend, she’d be breaking the law for sure, though with an app like this if she were to receive one from her boyfriend, and this app forwards it automatically, it’d be a tough call for the courts, especially since most of them haven’t a clue how technology works and would assume she fowarded it herself.

    Bottom line.. Educate your kids and none of this is ever an issue. Ohh and should someone send your kid a pic, they should be taught to do 2 things.. 1) contact you (being a parent) and 2) Delete the picture. Then you as a parent can contact the sender’s parents and have it handled properly with all minors involved.

  33. I have no problem with Google not wanting to be responsible for distribution of this app. People’s short term memory must be on the fritz because there’s alot that seem to forget that Google has been in a lot of hot water lately regarding privacy. This app is anathema to Google right now.
    I also have no problem with this app either. It’s SMS forwarding. That’s good for business users. Good for companies themselves to bolster information security (well, detection of leaks more or less), and yes good for parents as well. In terms of parents – some won’t need this. Some will. My aunt had 2 sons close in age. One has joined the military, been an upstanding citizen, and a loving father. The other has said since puberty he wanted to become a “street pharmacist” and has achieved his dream and been in jail more of his adult life than been free. Same parenting, different results. Some kids turn out good, some bad. It’s up to the parents to know their children well enough to decide whether they need this app or not. There are those that say that perhaps the child just shouldn’t have a cell phone and I agree to some extent, but that phone may also be the only way to keep an eye, or maintain contact with a wayward child.

  34. Google are allowed to ban the app from their closed Market. It doesn’t make Android itself any less open as it can always be installed from another source.

  35. Perhaps most of you failed to read the TOS for Google’s Android Market. There are a lot of apps that are NOT allowed. In fact, they have so far been quite lenient from Apps I’ve seen. This is perfectly within reason for them to do.


  36. Thank sweet Jesus. Back to sexting my GF without fear!!

  37. I got the apk hit me up if u want it email louievtts@gmail

  38. all i know is that this is not ok with me some things are better left unknown and some things people arent meant to hear imagine self conscious children gettin ahold of this and finding out mean bleep people say about them over txt or a phone calls amongst each other. a much grander scale then that person taping his gay roommate that committed suicide over him being publicly humiliated.

  39. and buy the way man sexting his sweet jeesus this doesnt mean the app doesnt exist anymore its just now not on ur app market…. still out there

  40. Google has the right to ban but these things should be noted why these things are ban.

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