It seems so easy to pirate apps for Android it's as if no one even cares. It's as easy as google searching for the apk and then installing it. Isn't this surprising as some apps cost money?

Wouldn't it be easy for Google to stop piracy as the Google Play Store knows which apps are installed and it would raise a red flag if an app that cost money is installed but there was no history of it being downloaded through the app store?

Am I missing something? Is there a technical detail that makes it harder than I think to know if someone has pirated?

I'm not saying it's good, but consider how now many ISPs basically have an automated process to scrape IP addressees from a bit torrent tracker hosting some of their copyrighted work, and send them an official looking letter threatening law suits if they don't voluntarily pay them money. I'm a bit surprised no Android Apps are doing this, especially considering almost all apps connect to the internet and get the information of the device. Come to think of it, if an app is detected as pirated could the company call the phone and ask how you purchased the app and use it against you in court? I guess the thing is many people do this.

UPDATE: for example Pokemon Go can be downloaded for free in countries that aren't supposed to have it. It's as simple as google searching the download, so it's as if they aren't even trying to prevent piracy.

  • What's the relation between this question and security?
    – techraf
    Jul 5, 2016 at 6:45
  • @techraf you don't see how anti-piracy is security?
    – Craigxyz
    Jul 5, 2016 at 10:51
  • 2
    Google is an advertising company. They don't really care about piracy, as long as their ads are delivered to the user they're happy. And since any DRM will get cracked there is really no point in trying. They leave it to the app makers to implement it themselves if they want, but any time spent on anti-piracy countermeasures would pay off more if it was spent on adding new features to make the product even more worth it for those who want to pay. Someone who pirates your product is someone who wouldn't pay in the first place anyway, so you don't loose anything. Jul 17, 2016 at 11:59
  • @AndréBorie: Why not put your comment as an answer? It seems pretty fine to me :) ! Jul 17, 2016 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


Wouldn't it be easy for Google to stop piracy as the Google Play Store knows which apps are installed and it would raise a red flag if an app that cost money is installed but there was no history of it being downloaded through the app store?

It's not as straightforward as that. There is no reliable, automated way to tell that a side loaded application is the same as an existing Play Store application. Simply changing the application's package names would make it really hard to compare one application with another. A more sophisticated attempt at hiding the application might be to recompile the application with an obfuscator. It is probably an Undecidable Problem.

It will also be an egregious privacy violation if Play Store uploads the names/signatures of side loaded applications to Google's server. That's more akin to what a spyware would do than a reputable application store. People generally don't like being treated like criminals; presumption of innocence is the principle.

Software DRM is most just for show, and can't really protect against piracy. If an application ships with DRM so it somehow cripples itself if it detects it is pirated, the pirates will simply modify the pirated application to disable such checks. The effect being that the DRM is only active on the systems of honest users, while the pirates got to have a DRM-free version.

There were a time in the 90s and early 2000s where softwares ships with various kind of DRM techniques. This leads to a sort of arms race between software developer and pirates; until software developers realized they are on a losing battle, as the DRM techniques used started becoming very invasive and becomes more like a malware than most real malware. Most software developers have since learned that most DRM is useless, and now protects their intellectual property thorough other means.


Because Linux is open source. The app makers rely on the quality of their apps and convenience of the users (click & pay instead of a little more complex download and install procedure.) to make their $, which is both morally correct and good for everyone. Such a system will cause apps to increase in quality, unlike over-protected games, where companies invest in copy protection instead of the quality of the game itself.

  • Please elaborate. From my perspective, it's a Linux that allows too much spam. If you differ in opinion, state why.
    – Overmind
    Jul 18, 2016 at 8:44
  • I globally agree with @AndréBorie, while Android can indeed be called a "Linux" system in the sense of "Linux-based", usually the term "Linux" designates a "GNU/Linux" platform which Android is not: it does not rely on GNU libraries and does neither attempt to follow POSIX standard nor even try to implement a UNIX-like system. Jul 18, 2016 at 9:43
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    @Overmind Android is not a Linux distribution and does not try to follow the open source movement (everywhing should be free, open source, etc). It is a proprietary system designed to make money through paid, closed-source apps. Jul 18, 2016 at 10:36
  • So you were referring to the $-making part. OK, now it's clear.
    – Overmind
    Jul 19, 2016 at 7:56

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