Tech 9 January 2019Dan Taylor
Samourai wallet disables stealth mode over transparency fears
Samourai Wallet, a Bitcoin Core (BTC)-centric wallet app, has deactivated a number of key features following issues raised by Google over transparency, the company has disclosed.
Samourai Wallet had targeted those still using BTC, promising a greater degree of anonymity for users while removing any mention of fiat. However, when brought to the attention of Google, a number of these features were deemed unacceptable, forcing Samourai to roll back on much of its functionality.
Sad but true, @GooglePlay is forcing us to remove Stealth Mode, SMS Commands, and SIM Switch Defense features as they transition to becoming more of a "Walled Garden" – despite the fact these features have proven record of helping users transact safely. https://t.co/kLRQT9PWvh
— Samourai Wallet (@SamouraiWallet) January 8, 2019
In a blog post responding to the fiasco, Samourai Wallet apologized to users, but said they had little choice but to work with Google to ensure continued support for their product: “Again, we are sorry for this inconvenience, but our hands have been tied by Google.”
The company said it hopes “to bring these features back somehow in the future in the Google Play Store release, and are dedicated to offering the full feature set experience via alternative distribution methods such as direct download and F-Droid in the coming months.”
Google introduced a policy in 2018 requiring third party add-ons to meet certain standards of transparency.
Through its “stealth mode,” which offered that enhanced level of privacy to those transacting through this setting, Samourai Wallet was found to be in breach of these standards, with three features in particular subsequently removed from the app.
“We applied for an exemption with Google months ago, which was rejected days ago, despite our argument that removing such functionality would cause users who rely on those features to be less secure and more exposed,” according to Samourai.
The offending features were Stealth Mode, SMS Commands, and SIM Switch Defense features. On installing the app, users are now forced to disable Stealth Mode to complete the installation, while the other features are also no longer active on the app.
While the news is a significant blow for Samourai Wallet, it is indicative of Google’s hardening stance towards apps with cause for concern around transparency.
Particularly in the BTC space, often a target for fraud and investment scams, compliance standards are becoming more rigorously enforced for apps and service providers.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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