Google Sending Android Developers Subpoena Warnings Over FBI Investigation


Now, we’re not exactly sure what’s going on here but  our inbox is exploding with developer friends who have been receiving emails from what appears to be Google’s legal team via the FBI, notifying them of a subpoena hitting Google. Essentially, it’s Google giving Android developers fair warning that they were forced to give out contact information and saying the FBI may follow up with developers individually as part of a subpoena.

We’ve called the Atlanta FBI and confirmed the E-Mails are 100% legit.


Google has received a subpoena seeking information related to Android applications that may have been made available on alternative markets without the consent of the developer. The subpoena seeks information about those Android applications, including contact information for the developers of the applications. Our records show that your Android developer account will be included in the information Google will provide in response to this subpoena.

Google is not in a position to provide you with legal advice or discuss the substance of the process in our possession. For more information about the subpoena, you may wish to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation — Atlanta Field Office at (404) 679-9000, reference #2011R00320/FBI/ORKIN.


Google Legal Investigations Support

The representative we spoke with at the Atlanta FBI immediately asked if I was calling in reference to the Google E-Mail after identifying myself as a Phandroid writer. Without reference number, she confirmed the e-mail was real but that Google should not have sent it. Apparently they jumped the gun and she ensured that developers have nothing to worry about. If the FBI determines any of these developers are victims, they may follow up, but she insisted that developers should act as if the E-Mail was never sent in the first place.

We’ll have to wait for an official word from Google regarding the issue before we can cofirm, but we can’t help but wonder if this has something to do with the drama surrounding Google and the rival Aliyun mobile OS giving its users access to a plethora of pirated Google Play apps.

Did Google simply act too fast? Or did they simply think developers deserved to be notified immediately regarding the release of their contact information? Or was there a miscommunication between Google and the FBI?

We can’t be sure until we hear further official word from Google and/or the FBI… but you can be sure that we’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, Anton and everyone who sent this in!

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. Poena ;)

    1. Poenaes ;-)

      1. Peona Apple. She was a popular singer in my teenage years.. O_o

        1. Peeona*

          1. I’m not eating THAT apple…

  2. bet its about app planet…

    1. yeah after i saw this comment i googled the site and its been siezed by the fbi. guess appplanet should have paid the troll toll to get that boy’s hole–1zA

      1. WTF did i just watch…..

      2. I agree with nightscout13….WTF was that?

      3. Lol! You gotta pay the toll trol! Lmfao! Hahaha!

  3. Surely this can only be good news for the Devs, it’s about time something was done to stop.the blatant pirating & distribution of apps. As Android users we want & need development to continue but if developers feel they are wasting their time & hard work just for these pirates to steal it from them they may (& have every right) just decide to go develop for Apple & to hell with android.

    1. I’m a dev and have received nothing, but I’m in Canada where a US subpoena means almost nothing.

      IMO it’s a TINY bit of good news. But nothing will stop piracy, it’s a fact of life. I earn an income by the grace of the honest people able to pay, and those who value the support and automated updates a legitimate purchase provides.

      Actions by the FBI etc. don’t happen because small devs are hit, it’s the big app developers complaints they are responding to, IMO.

    2. Yes, because the FBI has done so well in the past of stoping online piracy. All that will happen is they wil violate some rights, bust in some doors of someones grandma’s house because their data is wrong, and piracy will just grow.

      Mike Reid is right. Most likely just some big app developers that they are trying to appease and the small guys they don’t give a crap about.

      I don’t really see a true solution to the problem though. I will just keep buying apps that I want and that is how I will help the problem.

  4. Maybe it’s related to that whole Alibaba scuffle a couple weeks back.

  5. All apps should require a weekly authentication with Google. I’ve only seen a handful of developers use an authenticator. That could stop people from pirating apps. Yes, you can go through a process of cracking an app, but it wont be as simple as copy, upload, download, and install. It should be crack, test, upload, download, install, and make users have to crack the .apk every single update. You’ll have much less pirated apps.

    1. yes, and then our app ecosystem will be no better than apple’s.

      1. Yeah, because it’s known that iOS’ weakest point is the ecosystem…

        1. Yeah, because Apple’s ecosystem is perfect and we should all live in walled gardens.

          1. No half-measures, eh? :)

    2. So you want all your apps to be like Gameloft games and only work with an Internet connection?

      1. What are you talking about?
        Gameloft games work offline.
        To download the game from the market you need a connection, so launch the game right away and it checks the license, then you can play in airplane mode if you will.
        I think he’s right, some devs blame piracy for their own mistakes (like Madfinger) but they don’t even use the tools Google offers them for protection, that’s ridiculous.

      2. 99.99% of actively used Android devices access the internet once a week. The Play Store can scan for installed applications on your device and authenticate them. If it doesn’t pass authentication, you wont have access to that app. Simple.

    3. while piracy is an issue, those pirating would never buy the apps in the first place if they were locked down. It’s a sad fact. I feel for the devs but FBI should be utilizing their resources elsewhere.

      1. Thieves wouldn’t buy these jewels in the first place if the jewelry store was inviolable, so let’s do nothing about it. :P
        I know that there are people who download pirated apps because they don’t have access to the Play Store. Not only is this still illegal, but there are also people that download it just because, since it’s there, why would they pay for the official version?
        Either piracy is an issue, or it’s not. You can’t say it is and then argue as if it’s not.

  6. I think this is in regards to the 3 websites that got shut down by the FBI because alternative markets were giving the apps away free.

  7. Careful Chris, the FBI is ruthless, if you gave them your name, they will pull dirt on you just for fun.

  8. it is not necessary to steal cheap Android apps and games….common….if you pay you help all of us….Google has almost no profit from that….he is not greedy like Apple so help open source Android by buying apps…
    Ive never bought anything from Microsoft or Apple (they simply dont deserve that) but Ive spent a lot for Android knowing that has sense that will help to future data analysis to have better translator for free, gmail, maps, ….

  9. This only applies to the developers of pirate apps that were stupid enough to post them on the Play store(From what I can tell). Pirates aren’t going to stop, piracy has been here for as long as I can remember, and with fewer and fewer people having jobs I don’t see the “Piracy Problem” getting any better.

  10. Considering I seem to get more spam from people who have harvested my contact details off the Play store than anyone else I’m amazed that Google would even bother with this courtesy.

  11. We have also received such notice. We have never before heard of Aliyun’s Store, but managed to track (at least) one of our apps offered for free on their store.
    Its a very old version. I guess it was also posted on Applanet. It would be great if there is some update if the notice is in regard to Applanet or Aliyun. Thank you!

    Our portfolio can be found here, so anything found on those “free” markets is not posted by us:

  12. This is all over the Aliyun OS case huh? Oh well… good riddance.

  13. Google man-upped and let devs know up front. It’s like a coworker telling you that you are getting laid off, although they shouldn’t have. It’s the right thing to do, despite the bad circumstances behind it.

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