A recent NY Times story reported that a users photos are as unsafe on an Android device as they are on iOS. Some clueless bloggers picked the story and re-wrote it as 'Your Pics In Android Smartphones Are Unsafe!'
That's not entirely true. Android behaves more like your Windows/Mac or Linux PC where any app can have access to any data on the device without your permission. I would like to ask those clueless bloggers who want to spread the FUD that Android is unsafe when was the last time you had to give permission to GIMP, Krita, Firefox, LibreOffice and many such apps to access your photos? Never. Same was the case with Android.
Another important point is that you consciouly installed that app on your device, which means you trusted that app. Compare it with letting people into your house and then complaining they might steal stuff. Don't let people into your house that you don't trust. A smartphone or tablet is similar to your house - there is a lot of data on it and you should not install just any app on it. Install the apps you trust.
Apple's case is different as they are control freaks and want to have complete control over a user. Apple knows everything that you keep on your iDevices through the Agent Smith called iTunes.
Using iDevices is dangerous
The relationship between Apple and a user is of a master and slave. A master keeps an eye on everything that you put on your Apple device and clueless slaves have no problem with that. At times they do complain about the whip their master uses and request to change it. On iOS the master had access to your photos. Apple (and US government ) can very well access the images a British MP takes via their iPads/iPhones during a trip to Iran. Apple will also know that the MP made a visit to Iran via GPS tracking. I am surprised that non-US politicians and executives are still using iPads and iPhones despite the fact that Apple has access to all their data. Is that not a security risk?
Android is safe and open
On the contrary, Andriod gives you an open system (where you, and not some evil company is in control) -- just like your Linux PC. Google doesn't know anything that you put on your devices unless and until you decide to sync the data. In that case also you can very easily decide what data you want to sync. You may choose to not give Google access to your photos of track your location.
The story has made Google to rethink their approach and add permission to access photos. Google is known for responding immediately. Apple, on the other hand, is known for being extremely slow at fixing issues. What should we expect from a company which believes in the model of 'security by obscurity' instead of 'security by transparency'
As Android Central reports, Google has said:
We originally designed the Android photo 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.
A tip of Android users: When you install any app always check what permissions it needs. If you find that the apps needs access to a data that it should not, either don't install the app or report it.
Android is an extremely safe platform. It is as safe as we make it. So, don't be like those dumb users who prefer a 'master' to make all decisions for them. We are humans and we are supposed to get smarter, so be smart and be a smart user.
Soapbox: As part of the Soapbox entry I would like your help in getting your opinion about the subject. Please use the comment section to get on your Soapbox:
1. Google must add permissions settings for apps if they need access to photos?
2. Google's Android is far safer than iOS?
3. Google's Android is a mess from a security point of view?