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Google adding DRM to all Android apps

Google Android Oreo statue at Googleplex, Android apps feature DRM as of late June 2018 (Source: Louis Gray)
Google Android Oreo statue at Googleplex (Source: Louis Gray)
Earlier this week, Google silently introduced a feature that is supposed to increase the security of the Android platform by adding a string of metadata to all APK files. As long as Google does not go DRM-crazy the same way Electronic Arts did on a few occasions, everything should be fine.

If you have been using Netflix long enough, you might remember that it used to work only on (not so many) approved handsets. This happened thanks to Digital Rights Management, a technology that has been used since the mid-2000s by big names like Sony, EMI, Napster, and Apple. While some of these brands dropped the use of DRM in the meantime, it looks like Google has just adopted this technology to prevent malware from becoming available via Google Play.

Earlier this week, Google revealed that they are "adding a small amount of security metadata on top of APKs to verify that the APK was distributed by Google Play." Developers can also benefit from the introduction of this technology since it provides an offline distribution channel authorized for use with Google Play, so P2P shared apps will be eligible for online updates from the store.

For now, the reasons look very reasonable, such as helping developers to reach more people in countries where app sharing is common because of costly data plans and limited connectivity. 

In the future, on the other hand, Google could enforce various limitations that would do the opposite of the above. Electronic Arts did it a few times already and those measures were definitely not welcomed by the public.

This is a change that requires no actions to be performed by Google Play customers and developers, so we can only hope it remains this way and Google will never show us the dark side of DRM. If you have any thoughts about this, be sure to share them with the rest of us in the comments section.


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Codrut Nistor, 2018-06-24 (Update: 2018-06-24)