Well, I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to address legal issues. But I bet the agreement probably contains terminology to give them permission to do silent updates.
It’s one of those things about legalese: lawyers can always interpret it in a way that allows them to say you agreed.
The concern I have with your question is that you seem to be very distrustful of these silent updates and consider them akin to malware.
I strongly disagree.
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Silent updates aren’t a bad thing
Google probably set up silent updates because people don’t update Google Chrome, Google Earth, and other types of Google programs when they should.
Now, I know many people want absolute and ultimate control over their machine. I can understand that. But those people are actually in a very small minority.
In reality, the average consumer doesn’t care. They just want the thing to work. Asking them repeatedly to update is too intrusive and annoying. And if you give them the option to update, it’s too easy for consumers to say no or simply forget and not update their programs.
When an automatic update happens, the average consumer really doesn’t need to be involved. They don’t need to know when it happens, and they aren’t interested in the details.
Automatic updates and malware
The concern that legitimate software updates are akin to malware is, in my opinion, borderline hyperbole. The difference between Google running automatic updates in the background and malware silently doing things in the background is extremely clear.
It’s all about intent.
Google updates its software to become more stable and less vulnerable while adding features.
Malware does it because it intends to do something malicious.
That’s not even close to being the same thing.
Personally, I think background updates are awesome. I love that Chrome is always up to date without having to think about it. I have a few other apps that are starting to do this as well. I don’t even have to click OK; an update just happens. I really appreciate that, and I wish more applications would move to a model like that.
Avoiding automatic updates
If you don’t like background or automatic updates, I suggest you choose software that doesn’t use it. Pick software that forces you to choose and approve every update.
But for most people, having things update or work automatically without having to stop and think about it really is the right solution. As a result, it’s getting harder to keep that absolute control over your machine, as background and automatic updates improve the security and the stability of machines both at the individual level and across the internet.
Ultimately, I think that’s a great thing. Automatic updates and background tasks depend on intent, but I wish more legitimate applications would use them.