Blloc Ratio and Privacy

Hi team

First, kudos to the team for rolling out a wonderful promising product. I was looking forward to trying it out and when I received the invite, I was very excited.

But, my excitement was short-lived when I realized that the app is not available through the usual download method i.e. through the trusted Google Play Store.

I read the posts here to understand that since Blloc Ratio requires special access to the OS, it might not be accepted by Google Play.

That begs the question: What special access or permission does the Blloc Ratio apk wants that Google isn’t ready to provide? I couldn’t find any information on the website or community.

I’m an engineer and Android developer myself, also I deeply care about security and privacy. I don’t install 3rd party APK on my phones that aren’t available on Google Play Store. Why, you may ask? Because I don’t trust them. Period.

But I really really wanted to try Blloc Ratio since it promises a lot. Still I haven’t installed it. What’s stopping me? I can see that it’s being developed by a German Company. That’s a good sign. The data protection and privacy laws are good in Germany. But still one thing is missing: TRANSPARENCY.

I would like to request the team to be open and transparent about the security and privacy issues with Blloc Ratio. Be radically transparent of OS level access that the APK or the Desk Software wants and uses. That will build trust and credibility in the minds of users like me. Because in the longer run, I’m sure people who really want to use the launcher as a daily driver won’t use a PC or Mac software to keep updating their software that’s not available on the Play Store.

People who are early adopters jump from one launcher at breakfast to another by lunch. Most are probably testing it on a secondary device and will soon jump to the ‘next shiny little launcher’ when it comes.

But if Blloc really wants to stay and make an impact, in my humble opinion, instead of losing out on customers like me, they should be transparent about their operation esp. privacy, data protection, security and everything in between.

At the end of the day, are you really going to trust an app that’s not approved on the Play Store with your phone where banking apps, ecommerce apps, private chats, private photos, confidential information, password managers etc are also there?

I doubt so.

Please don’t take this as criticism. I want Blloc to succeed. Else, I wouldn’t have written this long post. Hope the Blloc team will make a sticky post on the community and be radically transparent.

All the best, team!

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I’m also interested in the transparency aspect of all this

@tonmoy and @MatadorFury When you go through the installation process via Bllocdesk, ALL of the permissions that are required are listed there. There are videos in the community that show these permissions, please do a search to find them. Moreover, there is no extra layers or trackers that are not able to be displayed, so if you want to do an audit, you can do so freely. The special access is to messaging and other things that Google Play does not usually have for a regular launcher. A Play Store version is in the works, but it may not contain all features from the launcher. Thanks for your patience :slight_smile:

Blloc has been super transparent with us users to the point that they even have the Roadmap made public. Thanks for doing your own research!

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On one hand you’re saying Blloc has been ‘super transparent’ and on the other hand, you’re not revealing what these special accesses are. You said ‘access is to messaging and other things’.

A ‘super transparent’ company won’t say ‘other things’. Obvious question is: What other things? What special messaging? Why Google Play does not usually have these access open for launchers? Why does Blloc think they should have more access than what already provided? How does Blloc treat user usage information (telemetry)? Where are its servers located? What OS level access it requires? What info does it send back to its Blloc servers? …and so on.

There’s a difference between making the roadmap public and making the principles behind making those decisions public.

Also, you’re saying ALL permissions are listed when we install. And have put the onus on the user to search for videos on the community before installing. This doesn’t amount to ‘super transparency’. This is the minimum basic required. And if a user is wary of installing a 3rd party APK that’s not available on the Play Store, the details should be on the invite email or linked in the email, or featured prominently on the community or the website. That would be ‘super transparent’. That will instill faith and trust in the mind of the user.

I understand that not all companies in the world are transparent. It depends on their culture and internal management decision. You can either choose to say, ‘Hey, thanks for doing your own research, here’s the APK. Pray to God that it isn’t compromised and install it. Trust us, we’re not evil people’ or write one long post revealing every design decision, every security concern, addressing every privacy concerns, every rationale behind ‘special access’ required by Blloc that Google Play doesn’t provide. Then there’s no need to say, ‘Trust us’. People will obviously be attracted to your brand.

As for me, personally I wouldn’t risk my privacy and data security by blindly trusting a company who chose not to disclose information explicitly when not doing so actually jeopardizes its survival. Unless revealing makes their lives more difficult.

My choice is clear. Don’t know about Blloc’s.

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@tonmoy I was literally trying to summarize. There is no need to be abrasive. Moreover, I am just a moderator, not a spokesman for the company.

Other things refers to calls, texts, read notifications, etc. Again, you can see ALL of the permissions on the Blloc desk application just before you decide to install Blloc Ratio on your phone. Moreover, there is a FULL user agreement where you can read other legal jargon before installing the application on your phone.

Thanks for understanding. If you do not want to install Ratio, that is fine as well as it is your device. Thanks for participating in the community. Have a good day :slight_smile:

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@tonmoy do you use Google apps?

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@jbriones95 If constructive feedback is termed as ‘abrasive’ in Blloc, then I wish good luck to the company and its team.

I’m not sure what you mean by you’re a moderator and not a spokesperson. Do you work for Blloc? Because looking at your answer it seemed you either work for them or know about them in great detail. Either way, you were trying to reply to my concerns.

Reading full user agreement and legal documents before installing an app? You obviously must be kidding and didn’t understand my concern. I will wait for a company representative to respond to my concerns, if they want to.

Also, I digg your patronizing way of brushing off criticism: ‘It’s your phone, do whatever you want to’. ‘Don’t want to install Ratio, don’t,’ but please only say good things about our new launcher, Constructive criticism comments will be termed ‘abrasive’ and will be served ‘FULL user agreement’. I like your style. But sadly don’t digg your unusual ‘super transparency’. :slight_smile:

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@B_Wrath obviously, you’re not a golfer.

Not sure what you are trying to mean there.

Anyways, have you checked if google is a “super transparent” company? Seeing the you believe Google is super safe.

And being an android developer, I’m sure you know about the restrictions on permissions access based on the category of the app.

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@tonmoy I do not work for Blloc, I am just a moderator in the forums and a user of the platform.

Constructive criticism is welcomed in this platform and many users have shaped Ratio so far in these two months of testing. My initial response was concerning your statement on lack of transparency. Again, as an user and moderator, I have used Ratio for about 2 months and there is much transparency found in my interactions in the forum, statements of the company, Roadmap, features, and also the way the company has communicated with users, etc.

Apologies for my comment that came across as patronizing, it was not my intent. Either way, I will tag @adham as he knows more about how to address your concerns. Thanks again for participating in the forum.

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@B_Wrath I don’t think Google is a ‘super transparent’ company. But Google has earned its credibility over the years, even though some of its policies and product decisions are questionable. Does Google invade privacy? Hell yes. But can you trust Google that apps approved by its team that make it to the Play Store have some level of strict sanitization checks in place? 100% yes. Does Google keep periodically removing bad actors (defaulting apps) from its Play Store? 100% yes. Does it care about keeping the Android ecosystem relatively clean of malware? No doubt. That means an average regular user can blindly trust apps available on the Play Store without worrying about data breach, privacy concerns, hacks etc. Obviously, there would be bad actors always trying to find newer ways to breach these walls. But that’s a diff topic for discussion.

Now compare that to a company not known by many people: Blloc. They’ve come up with a promising launcher. But not available on Play Store. Okay, do they explain why not with radical transparency? Nope. Then will I install it? Nope. Why should I blindly trust it? It hasn’t earned the trust of people yet.

So your comparison is not correct.

Also being an Android Dev, I know. But will my non-tech savvy friend understand? Nope.
Then do we want transparency? Yes, because not everyone is an Android Dev. Unless you’re targetting only Android Devs to use your launcher.

Ratio is in the beta stages. So yes. It is now targeted to the tech savvy people as of now. You need to have some level of knowledge to use it.

And I’m sure the pro version might not even be released in the play store because it needs permissions which Google thinks isn’t necessary for what essentially is a launcher.
But the striped down lite version might be launched in the play store. And that will appeal to the non tech savvy folks.

And coming to the transparency concern of yours. All the details you need, are in the user agreement. If you care about privacy and security, I’m sure you would have read it by now. You can always point out a shady statement on it and we can have a discussion on it.

The permissions that you give to ratio pro is asked from you right there while you install it. No permission is granted without your approval. This is where I don’t understand your transparency argument.

A product in its beta stage should make it easier for prospective early adopters to adopt the product with minimal friction. Also, every app has a User Agreement, that doesn’t make it transparent. Yandex and Mozilla both has User Agreements on their websites. It’s anybody’s guess which one is transparent & everyone trusts.

There’s a huge difference between app permissions and transparency. Revealing about why, what, how and when about these permissions clearly is transparency. Super transparency will happen even before User Acquisition. In Blloc’s case, only permissions are revealed right before User Activation. That’s a huge huge difference.

I’m sure as an android developer, you would have tested plenty of unreleased apps and roms. Apps which aren’t Google play store certified. Roms which don’t even have a decent user agreement page.

And I think you have got the thinking in the opposite direction. An early adopter wouldn’t worry about putting up the grunt work to make a thing work or to understand how it works.
It’s the general public who want a more easier way of working things out. Everything laid out in front.

Again. As a little advanced users who know their way around android, I believe we know why a permission is required. If not, I would at least dig around the forum and internet to find out the requirement.

As always, if privacy is of paramount, the onus is on the user to judge whether to trust the app or not. It’s as simple as that.
Many still think the app is legit and many might think it is shady. To each their own.

In any case, if you have suggestions on how blloc can achieve this “super transparency” as you put it, I’m sure @adham and team will at least give it a read. It might help the other users too.

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I don’t subscribe to your defition of ‘early adopter’ so won’t argue because as you rightly said, ‘to each its own’.

I didn’t coin the term ‘super transparency’ @jbriones95 did in his/her reply. :slight_smile:

I agree with you. A company that doesn’t care about transparency leaves it upto the user to check if it’s ‘safe’ for him to install or try an app. I’m not saying Blloc can’t be that company. It is as of now. And who am I to allow or disallow Blloc and its management to stop being what it is or what it wants to be. But as someone who’s seen multiple products fail and succeed, it was my humble suggestion that Blloc can choose to be radically transparent. Take it or leave it, who cares about it. I’ll simply not install, many like me won’t. Blloc can decide to care or not, completely upto it. Do they put the onus on me to make precautionary checks? Then I won’t care and say, ‘All the best. Count me out. I have other things to do than going through pages of User Agreement. I’m the user, you need to acquire me. Not the other way round.’

As simple as that.

As a volunteer and I can suggest how to be radically transparent. There are expert written books and blogs by companies that follow radical transparency like Mozilla, Buffer etc. The owners of Blloc can read them.

If you want my involvement, you’ll have to make me subscribe to your mission. Then I’ll contribute without pay, volunteering. And again, how to woo me… By being radically transparent. :blush:

I’ve no agenda, no bad feelings against Blloc. I don’t even have a competitor product. I loved the demo by some YouTuber and wanted to try. But the website and email and community didn’t convince me enough. End of story.

If someone from management replies, I might reply later. Otherwise, that’s the end of my story. All the best to the team.

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@tonmoy thanks for taking so much time in debating to understand what blloc does, I really appreciate it. Now let’s take a look at few things.

#1 - transparency:
Transparency is about saying the users what access the app would be needing to work as intended or showcased. This has been implemented in the installation process, user being a developer or not irrespective of their privacy concerns are clearly shown what permissions they are allowing. As per me this should address the user about their privacy concerns.

#2 - Sharing design ideas
Sharing design ideas with the public and an approximate time of when they might see the beta stage is a huge step. Sharing ideas behind the decisions is not something any developer would ever want to do. The basic idea can be shared but not every aspect behind every feature.

#3 - wooing you
Hey buddy, a developer wants to get support for his work. If you want to support them try and understand the efforts spent in the development process. I’m sure you know being an android developer yourself. Now before a public launch developer can’t get into writing transparency articles.

#4 - why this feature?
The core idea behind this is to minimize your device usage. There are a lot of things that users came forward and requested stating their ideas on how that feature would help them. Those of which many users felt they’d want to have have been selected as will be implemented. They’ve been very helpful in contributing to the development

#5 - providing an apk for audit
No one is stopping anyone from auditing the app. You can go ahead download apk from blloc services and audit it. As of now sending apk without BllocServices isn’t possible, feel free to post your findings.

Hope I’m able to answer all your concerns?

P. S
Ratio is transparent and doesn’t hide a single permission it needs at the time of installation. Anyone taking a look at it would understand what they’re signing up for and it’ll be easier for someone with development experience to understand. DM me if you have any additional concerns.

Closed

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fair. How would an ideal transparency on the permissions look for you?
Did you see the explanation on BllocDesk on each permission?

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@tonmoy here is Adham who represents the company. Go ahead and continue the discussion here :slight_smile:

i honestly diddnt follow the whole conversation it seems it went into a different direction. We take privacy super serious, but i guess we sucked at communicating that. So im honestly interested to answer the very first postin its original direction, how can we communicate this better as often I feel it cant be said enough.
for example heres an exermpt from our next website update, however i feel 10% of customers even scroll that far :confused:

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