We learned a few days ago that those with rooted devices were no longer able to download the Netflix app from the Play Store. This was suspected to be related to Netflix’s adoption of the Widevine DRM protection provided by Google. That may not actually be the case, and, even more worrying, Netflix may not be the only app involved.
Recently discovered changes to the Google Play developer console, as spotted by Android Police, means that devs are essentially now able to choose whether their apps are available to rooted users in the Play Store.
The new “device catalog” section of the console includes an option called “SafetyNet exclusion,” which can be used to prevent “devices that fail integrity tests or those that are uncertified by Google,” from downloading a specific app: among these would be rooted devices and those running custom ROMs. This, it seems, is what Netflix recently took advantage of.
The thing is, Google needs to maintain security for developers and end-users alike. And sometimes, that will also come at the expense of some users or apps. For example, Google also recently made changes to the way screen overlays work, meaning apps that would previously draw on top of the screen — like Twilight — w0uld no longer function (or at least, no longer work in the same way).
So, this move isn’t necessarily motivated by a desire to stop users unlocking their bootloaders, rooting devices, or generally having fun — but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
If you know how to root your phone, then you surely know how to find an APK somewhere other than the Play Store. And yes, Netflix still operates on devices that it’s installed on, it’s only the Play Store download that’s prevented (for now).
Basically, in preventing the Play Store download of popular apps, Google is just — intentionally or not — directing rooted users to third-party sources in search of unauthorized APKs. And if that’s an attempt to increase device security, then it seems like a misguided one.
That’s my take, what’s yours? Let me know in the comments.