There is a new “SafetyNet exclusion” option in Google’s developer console that, when selected by the developer, prevents “devices that fail integrity tests or those that are uncertified by Google” from installing apps. This essentially blocks rooted device’s and those running custom ROMs from installing certain apps.
It all started with Netflix and might proceed to engulf all other applications. We are talking about the disruption caused in the Android periphery for those strong supporters of rooting devices. The issue started when search results on Play Store using rooted devices stopped showing Netflix app followed by a confirmation from Netflix itself that its app is no longer visible on Google Play to anyone with a device that is “not Google-certified or [has] been altered.” And now it seems this policy will be carry forwarded for other apps as well and Play Store will disable installation of certain apps on rooted devices.
So what if you have a rooted device?
Those with rooted devices can still use apps that enable the new option, like Netflix, if they’re able to acquire the apps from 3rd-party sources. For a feature that’s meant to improve safety on Android devices, it seems counter intuitive that Google is now essentially forcing a subset of Android users to seek apps from unauthorized sources.
This change does not currently affect the Fire TV platform or Amazon appstore in any way, but it could lead Amazon to adopt a similar developer option if enough apps, like Netflix, demand it.
So which apps might not work or get affected by this?
Well, that’s just not yet confirmed as it totally depends on the app developer, whether he enable the prevention option or not but as of now as a guess certain google apps might not work as well.
So well here’s the news about the google play prevention on rooted device, here’s my thoughts about it (not necessary, neither any special info)
This is becoming insanity.
I picked Android as my OS of choice on my devices primarily because I do not buy into the walled garden style of iOS. With an open source OS, I have always felt much more in control of my Android experience than I have on other mobile OSes.
When this all began (certain apps prevented from being used on rooted devices) I could see some sort of direct utility:
Android Pay – of course! There are some serious implications of running a rooted device with an app that has a direct link to your payment methods.
Pokemon Go – I was on the fence here, but at least I could see the developers’ idea of blocking location spoofing.
Netflix – I am still angry about this, but I recognize that Netflix does not deserve to shoulder all of the blame here. Akin to their VPN blocking, the archaic rules of content producers forced Netflix to either play ball or lose a good chunk of their library. Still, I feel as though a greater fight could have been put up. This will only drive users back to piracy, which ironically, Netflix was doing an excellent job of combating up until the VPN/rooting issues.
…but now? Giving any arbitrary developer the ability to block rooted devices from using their app? This is going too far, in my opinion. What is to stop essentially ever developer from blocking rooted devices for good or for bad? Nothing.
I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of Android users do not even know what rooting a device is let alone the utility of it. However, the developer and hobbyist community has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade and this demographic should not be penalized.
There of course needs to be a balance struck between app security and used freedom, but this news shows the scale is clearly becoming unbalanced.
Should I be penalized for wanting my device to act as I wish it to? Of course not. I do understand though, that once I leave the parameters of how an app or OS should act, I null my right to support from the original developer, as I am no longer using the product as designed.
What of apps that require root to fully work? Something as innocuous as Titanium Backup (10,000,000 – 50,000,000 downloads on the Play Store too FYI) will be unfairly penalized because of this move.
Much like the cat and mouse game computing security is, this will only drive users to find new, undetectable, rooting methods (E.g. Magisk) to make their OS fit their vision. This all flies in the face of what the open source community was built upon. If Google wants to weaken security on Android by forcing users to sideload APKs from who only knows where, they are doing a fine job of it.