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A tool that offered a missing privacy feature in Android, introduced in version 4.3, has been removed in version 4.4.2, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The tool, called App Ops Launcher, enables users to choose what permissions they will allow for each application that is installed on their Android phones. It is one feature that is lacking in the security model of the mobile operating system.

The EFF is a non-profit organisation that works to ensure peoples' digital rights are respected.

When one installs an app from Google's Play Store, one cannot choose the permissions one accords to an app. It is an all or nothing proposition.

When the EFF asked Google why the tool was removed, it was told that it had been released by accident, that it was experimental and could break some of the apps that it was policing.

"We are suspicious of this explanation, and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it," the EFF wrote.

"The disappearance of App Ops is alarming news for Android users. The fact that they cannot turn off app permissions is a Stygian hole in the Android security model, and a billion people's data is being sucked through."

Apple had the same issue some years ago - users had to accept all the permissions demanded by an app when installing - but it took steps so its users could choose what permissions to grant and which to deny.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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