I was just going through a food delivery application's preferences file where I found that it had a boolean to check if the user has one of its rival's app installed or not. Is it ethical to do so on their part?

  • 1
    I don't think we can discuss ethics here. But you might try ask law stackexchange if it is legal according to android's EULA.
    – Euphoric
    May 17, 2018 at 7:22
  • Is it not a valid question for this platform? I am not an android dev but just curious. I already have a downvote before the answer.
    – cr0ssb0w
    May 17, 2018 at 7:22
  • The downvote is probably because the question is subjective. I wouldn't worry about it much, but see here if you are curious: softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic
    – Cypher
    May 17, 2018 at 20:12

4 Answers 4


It really depends on what they do with that information. If they purely use it to have a statistic "X% of our users also have the app from competitor Y installed" then I don't see anything wrong with it.

If they use it to skew the competition, e.g. by offering such users special discounts, I would counsider it unethical.

  • 6
    And of course, if it interferes with the rival application in any way, it's most definitely unethical, and probably illegal in many jurisdictions. May 17, 2018 at 8:03
  • illegal under GDPR unless you have ticked a box allowing them to gather it surely
    – Ewan
    May 17, 2018 at 11:42
  • 1
    @Ewan: IANAL, but the GDPR does not apply for data that is not directly or indirectly linked to specific people, so if you collect purely aggregate data you're fine. itgovernance.eu/blog/en/the-gdpr-what-exactly-is-personal-data May 17, 2018 at 12:08
  • in this case though you would be collecting data about what apps i have on my phone
    – Ewan
    May 17, 2018 at 12:17
  • 2
    @Ewan: Nope, I am very sure you are wrong in both regards. Your first argument would make it illegal to transmit any data whatsoever over the internet, and your second argument would make it illegal to distribute any installable software whatsoever. The GDPR is in parts impractical, but it is not that impractical. May 17, 2018 at 13:39

It seems that the security of the operating system is broken. An app should not be able to find out what other applications are running on your device.

  • 1
    Not necessarily, an app should be able to find dependencies. May 23, 2018 at 12:04
  • @gnasher729 the androd api to find the intent of a matching activity that (... add condifiont here ...) is not protected by android. matching can mean "can handle *.txt files" or "full activity class name = name of copetitor activity"
    – k3b
    May 23, 2018 at 15:41

I assume checking itself is not a problem yet. I remember the news that some big company was caught on making discounts when rival app was installed. This information can be sent to the server as a part of some statistics call and the server can theoretically implement any logic it wants. I also assume that this logic will be immediately disabled if someone pays much attention.

  • what does this add that the accepted answer doesn't say?
    – esoterik
    May 25, 2018 at 22:58

"It seems like X is not the default browser, would you like to make X the default?"

  • 3
    That's a config users have a hard time tracking down, and it is both common to want to do it, defer a decision, or definitely decline. But it's not actually about any other app, it's about whether your own should take the spot. May 23, 2018 at 12:09

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