Google’s policy wallets forces BTC wallet removal

Samourai has a privacy-focused bitcoin wallet. However, due to what it says are Google’s “extremely restrictive policies,” it has had to remove a series of security features from its app available for download on the Play Store.

Samourai explained in a blog post that three features — stealth mode, SIM switch defence, and remote SMS commands — have been removed as a result of Google’s push to “become more of a ‘walled garden’ experience.” However, users can get a version of the wallet that includes the security features; they just won’t get it via Google.

What is a ‘walled garden’?

Coindesk explains the term: “It is synonymous with closed-platform or closed ecosystem, referring to a software system where the service provider takes on holistic control over all operations in the system including applications, content and media.”

This is actually nothing new and it’s a practice that Facebook and Amazon use as well.

One of Samourai’s co-founders, referred to as SW, told Coindesk that the Google move towards a walled garden ecosystem had been ongoing over the last year and that it affects all app developers wanting to place apps in the Play Store. SW said the effect was thus: “Users of Samourai might have noticed that they are no longer getting notifications on when they receive bitcoin. That’s because if you want to use notification services you have to route everything through Google services.”

SW also said that the accumulated effect of Google’s policy changes was “pushing Samourai developers to opt-out of more features when releasing new wallet versions to the application.” However, SW stressed that wallet users downloading Samourai through the Google Play store are still getting “maximum amounts of privacy” unmatched by other bitcoin wallet applications.

Samourai is in discussions with Google to see if the matter can be resolved. SW told Coindesk that they had filed for an exemption to the rule after highlighting in their request that “for some of these users especially in South America, it is a matter of life or death.” This may sound like an exaggeration, but the Stealth Mode, for example, is a feature that “cloaks the existence of a bitcoin wallet on a user’s mobile device such that transactions can be made without detection in dangerous parts of the world.”

Samourai is still hopeful that Google will rethink its rejection of the application for exemption and says that the Play Store remains a great platform for app developers to get their products to the biggest possible audience.