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Brazilian judge orders Google to wipe Secret app from user's smartphones

In an effort to clamp down on online bullying, a judge in Brazil has ruled that Google must delete the Secret app from the Play Store and user's handsets.
August 20, 2014
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Secret, a nearly anonymous social network which launched on Android earlier in the year, has already been outlawed in Brazil. Judge Paulo Cesar de Carvalho has upheld a civil action, ruling that Apple and Google must remove the application from their stores in Brazil. Not only that, but the companies have also been ordered to remove the app from every device in the country.

That last request sounds rather farfetched but it is actually within Google’s capabilities, just about. Android supports a security measure to remotely remove apps from devices without the user’s permission. Back in 2010 Google used this system to remove a bunch of malicious software that made it on to the Play Store and some user’s devices. Google then pushed a notification explaining the situation. However, this ruling would be on a much larger scale, and might not go as smoothly as Google’s other software removal efforts.

The reason for the judgement stems from some of the more sordid aspects of social networking. The judge is apparently fed up with the anonymous bullying and harassment that talks place on anonymous networks like Secret, and has decided to put a stop to it. He seems particularly concerned that offensive and aggressive messages can’t easily be tracked by law enforcers.  In the original hearing, the Minister of Rosa Weber Supreme Federal Court suspended of the decision over concerns that the ruling would effectively apply censorship to citizens.

The judge has issued a deadline of just 10 days to remove the app from stores and delete it from smartphones across the country. If Google, or the other companies, refuse to comply, they face a daily fine of $20,000 ($8,888 USD), although they will be allowed to appeal the ruling.