Who Even Pays Attention to App Permissions?

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

That’s right, no one. We often regard the app permissions pop-up as another one of these simplified ‘terms and conditions’ pages that we always skip and rush to get to the ‘Ok, I accept’ part. Due to this, we are never aware of our so-called ‘contract’ with all the apps we use. They definitely have permissions just for the sake of having them. So, what are we missing by never paying attention to what parts of our devices our apps have access to? Well, instead of us being able to monitor our apps, they monitor us. It sounds like the plotline of a mystery murder story, but it’s our reality.

Apps Ask for Permissions for a Reason

Does an app like Facebook really need to be able to access your call information in order to provide you with a good user experience? Definitely not, but it’s a permission that they require to have from those downloading their app. So why is that? It’s not a necessary permission and yet they still ask for it. Of course, facebook isn’t the only one that asks for your privacy in exchange for being able to use their app. When confronted, Uber was the only one that commented. A spokesperson stated that users can turn off certain permissions in the app’s settings. Of the companies asked, only Uber explained why different types of data are collected from users. Others refused to comment, which means that they are definitely hiding something from users. And it doesn’t take an IT expert to realize that being able to connect and disconnect WiFi isn’t what Facebook was created for. Well-known apps aren’t the only ones that ask for an extensive list of permissions before you’re allowed to download them. Little known calculator or timer apps may ask for so many permissions that you’ll start to wonder if their main purpose is to take over your phone.

Why are App Permissions Necessary?

Originally, these were created so that users know what parts of their device apps need access to in order to be able to function properly. However, how would this explain flashlight apps that want access to your contacts and call information? These permissions would be justifiable if it was a calling app of sorts, but for a flashlight? It makes one suspect that the flashlights main purpose is to spy on you and maybe that is the case. Ideally, you should only download apps who ask for permissions that are related to their service provided. It would make perfect sense for Google Maps to ask to have access to your exact location since it helps them to tailor their services for you. Not so much for a game app. However, if you only download apps with permission requests that you can understand, you’ll miss out on all the current trends, like Facebook and Whatsapp.

Protect Yourself and Fight Back

Chances are, you’re going to keep doing what you normally do, even after learning about unnecessary permissions that numerous apps request. Reading and understanding app permissions and the terms of use seems like a useless waste of time for many people. You’ve been using apps for years and nothing bad has ever happened to you, so why should you change anything now? If that’s your case, then feel free to continue being a lab rat for companies that want to play around with the information you let them access. A smart thing to do would be to carefully read the permissions list for every app you download and use your common sense. A photo editing app may need to have access to your image gallery, but what about a calendar app? Then, if you see an app that requires too many unnecessary permissions, send them a message asking for an explanation and encourage others to do the same. If they get enough complaints, apps will be more likely to revise their permission lists if they want others to download their product. Act now and be the change instead of continuing letting your apps shamelessly make use of your private information. Another option would be to download a permission manager, so you know exactly what each app has access to, even if you didn’t bother to read the permission requirements. Apps such as the ‘permission manager’ also ask for permissions, but it’s all for a good cause. These apps will help you understand what risks you’re exposing yourself and your device to by granting certain unnecessary permissions to certain apps. Perhaps this will finally convince you to replace your permission-demanding apps with alternatives that don’t put you or your device at risk.