In recent days, an application designed for Google's mobile operating system "Android" was accused of wiping data from user's phones. It's not known whether or not the rumors are true, but once again questions are being raised about the safety and security of Google's open platform versus more controlled and regulated platforms like that of Apple's iPhone. For supporters of the iPhone, a story about a rogue Android application proves their point that Apple's oversight and review process is necessary for keeping consumers safe.
However, the real story behind the accusations may have nothing to do with the "open vs. closed" debate at all, but more to do with how an unliked application (and its developer) were slammed and then taken down by the Android community.
Was MemoryUp a "Rogue" Application?
Whether or not MemoryUp actually destroyed personal data and spammed people's contacts, as it was said to have done, is unknown. However, it would have been difficult for it to have accomplished those things. The app required no special privileges to install, so it's hard to imagine how it could have accessed the data and email addresses or how it could have sent out the spam. Also, for what it's worth, the company behind the app adamantly denies the claims. Says Robert Lee, chief technical associate for eMobiStudio, "We are very disturbed by these reports. Whatever damage is out there has not been done by our product."
...Or a Victim of Community Backlash?
The truth about this application may be that it just wasn't very good, not that it was dangerous malware. Many comments about the app in the Android store (prior to the app's removal) and in the forums weren't about losing data but about how the app wasn't worth installing because it provided no real value to the user.
What's even more apparent, though, in reading through the posts and comments about MemoryUp, is that many members of the Android community seemed to have a grudge against the app's creator, Peter Liu, whose drive-by advertising in forum postings got under people's skin. "How many times are you going to advertise this on here?" wrote one user. Later, others bragged and joked about running the "Memory folks out of town." "Peter needs to get a life," said yet another user.
It stands to reason that a handful of Android community members decided to disparage the application to get back at the app's developer...but something like that could never be proven, only suspected.
Yet, if that was the case, those people inadvertently ended up hurting Android in the process. By raising questions about the safety and security of Android platform, they helped to spread "FUD" (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about this new mobile OS. Even worse, these rumors make the iPhone's closed and "by approval only" model look like the safer, smarter choice when it comes to phones. But as anyone involved in the open movement will tell you, that is not necessarily the case.