Google shuts down photo sharing via Android TV due to privacy concerns

Android TV Privacy Issue Exposes Your Private

Android TV Privacy Issue Exposes Your Private

Essentially, the user entered the TVs linked accounts on the Google Home app only to find a long list of strangers names that scrolled endlessly. This is exactly what happened to at least two Android TV users, on television sets from Vu and iFFalcon (a subsidiary of TCL).

Not only has Google disabled the Ambient Mode screensaver from working with Google Photos, it has completely disabled the ability to Cast Google Photos to any Android TV until it can sort this problem out (you can still cast Google Photos to a Chromecast). As reported by the user, the bug appears to show linked accounts of thousands of Android TV users on the Google Home app, allowing him to access the private information and photos of thousands of unsuspecting users. It is also likely that photos of strangers weren't actually shown, and just the accounts were listed; but that by itself is a cause of privacy concern that can not be underplayed. The bug couldn't be replicated on his other Android TV, a Xiaomi Mi Box 3 running Oreo. The literature on Flipkart (the site through which he bought the TV) now mentions Android 8.0 Oreo as the operating system on the unit, so it looks like that OTA update didn't push to his TV.

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While this privacy concern was initially discovered with Prashanth's Vu LED TV and seemingly only showed the Google accounts of users that also owned the same model of TV, another Twitter user (Aarjith Nandakumar) noticed the same issue occurring with his iFFalcon Android TV. Both Vu and Google have responded to the issue. While we don't hear very often about Android TV and the updates Google has planned for the OS, the internet giant did announce Android Pie for Android TV back in Google IO 2018.

A bug that allows Android TV viewers to see Google Photos accounts from hundreds of strangers has forced Google to temporarily disable the photo sharing feature on Android TV. In a statement to Ars and others, a Google spokesperson said, "We take our users' privacy extremely seriously". I shudder to think of what someone with nefarious intentions may have been able to sniff out had this gone unchecked, and hope that down the line, Google provides a satisfactory explanation about how this could have taken place.

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