Barnes & Noble was pretty thoroughly trounced by Amazon when it came to e-readers and tablets, but now the bookseller is trying to come back with a new $50 Android tablet that competes with the Kindle Fire. It’s a nice tablet by all accounts, but there’s one apparent issue that may prevent people from buying — it’s running the same software that caused a security scare several months ago with Blu’s $50 Amazon Prime phone.
The incredibly popular Blu R1 HD was mysteriously “unavailable” for weeks after the news broke that it was sending user data like account information and SMS contents back to a server in China. This was explained as a mistake in the way the Adups module was configured (the data was deleted upon discovery and was allegedly never used for anything). Adups is a company that manages OTA updates. So instead of Blu running its own OTA server or using Google’s, it has Adups take care of deploying the firmware. It’s not an uncommon arrangement, but it is uncommon for the OTA component to be stealing user data, even if it was unintentional.
The NOOK Tablet 7 takes aim at Amazon’s successful $50 Fire tablet — what is it with $50 Android devices and security issues? The 7-inch tablet has a modest octa-core MediaTek ARM chip and 8GB of storage with a microSD card slot for expansion. Unlike the Fire, this tablet runs a Google-certified build of Android, meaning you get access to Google services like the Play Store, Gmail, and Maps.
No one had ever heard of Adups at the consumer level until a few weeks ago, and now it’s basically synonymous with malware. That’s not really what it is, though. Adups and similar pieces of software have the access to do scary-sounding things because they’re system components. They have a use, but Adups was set up incorrectly on the Blu phone. Simply having Adups on a device doesn’t mean it’s sending your data to China, but what if it is?
The R1 HD, which only recently went back on sale after the Adups scare.
The fact of the matter is that Barnes & Noble should have known better than to use Adups. The version of Adups on the NOOK Tablet 7 is apparently older, before it completely disabled some of its more invasive data collection tools in an attempt to ease tensions. That doesn’t mean the NOOK Tablet 7 is using those tools, but again, this is about appearances. This simply looks suspicious.
I’m not going to tell you the NOOK Tablet 7 is stealing data because it uses Adups, but this is about trust. Do you trust Barnes & Noble to do its due diligence to ensure this $50 tablet’s version of Adups is configured correctly? It’s up to you.
We’ve reached out to Barnes & Noble for comment and will update if we hear back.