Talking tech since 2003

Google has updated the terms and conditions for its Play app store, closing a loophole used by apps like Facebook Home to issue automatic updates that bypassed the Play Store’s update process. This news, reported by TechCrunch, means that Facebook Home in particular will no longer be able to push “beta” updates to users. Instead, those who have Facebook’s new home screen app installed will have to update through the Play Store.

The changes were added to the Dangerous Products section of the Play Store T&C. Here is the text:

An app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play’s update mechanism.

Facebook Home’s Play-less app updating will no longer be welcome in the Play Store version.

For Google, it makes a whole lot of sense to close this loophole. Android is already facing heavy criticism for its vulnerability to malware and the number of shady applications that can be found inside the Google Play store. To be fair, most harmful forms of malware on Android actually come from apps that are side-loaded onto phones and tablets.

Google does a fairly decent job of making sure malware stays out of Google Play, and closing this loophole makes it even harder for Android users to install malicious software.

It isn’t the end of the world for Facebook, either. The company can continue offering Facebook Home through the Play Store — it will simply have to update the app through the Play Store’s updating mechanism like most other apps do. And if Facebook wants to test new features on a certain audience, the company could create a beta program and have users side-load a version of Home that can update automatically without the Play Store.

This move by Google may seem like it’s aimed at Facebook Home, but it may simply be a case of Facebook’s new app highlighting a security hole that would have otherwise flown under the radar. Closing this loophole in the Play Store terms and conditions makes Android users much safer in the long run and doesn’t really hinder Facebook Home all that much. Facebook can adjust and update its app through the Play Store, and things can continue on as usual.

Should Facebook offer any comment on Google’s Play Store policy change, we’ll update you here.

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