One of the security industry’s loudest current laments is that devices are too hard to update and their owners therefore don’t keep them secure.
But now Google has shown that sometimes it can be too easy to change a device’s behaviour.
The incident in question unfolded late last week when one owner of Google’s Pixel handsets took to Reddit and created a thread titled “is anyone else's power saving mode turning itself on even though you have it off?”
The thread saw Pixel owners report that even though they had never used their phones’ power saving mode, it turned on without their intervention.
Some owners assumed they’d turned it on accidentally. Others attributed it to an update Google issued a day earlier.
The truth was stranger still: a Google staffer posted that the incident “was an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended.”
“We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default, the staffer added, before signing off with “Please configure to your liking. Sorry for the confusion.”
Anyone can make a mistake. But mistakes that remotely change settings on smartphones suggest Google’s processes may need a little tightening.
Which is a little worrying given the company can reach out and touch the millions of Pixel phones currently in use and that its business model relies on collecting data.
For what it’s worth, a few of the folks in the Reddit thread appreciated the change because they didn’t know about the feature and enjoyed the improved battery life.
Others were annoyed by it, because the exercise-tracking apps they were using don’t work in battery-saver mode (which disables GPS to save energy consumption).
Many others were unpleasantly surprised to learn that Google can alter their devices without warning.
“This really bothers me enough that this can occur without any notification,”wrote Redditor jtrthehax.
Another user, “jameelalayyan” was more graphic. “Thank you for having control of my phone?” he wrote. “How many videos do you have of me wiping my ass?”