Sunday, March 25, 2018

Android permissions and how to deal with the apps that misuse them

Every once in a while there has been some scandal with Google or Facebook or someone collecting a shitload of surprising data in their Android apps, so I decided to write a simple guide on what to do about it.

1.  If you have an Android phone running an Android version below 6, get a newer one, if you can. With versions 5 and below pretty much the only thing you can do is to check the app permissions on Google Play, and not install the ones that ask for too much. Fat chance.

2. Yes, do check the permissions that are listed for the app in Google Play. Yeah, I know you are gonna install that app that asks for your firstborn anyway. Or at least I totally did in the dark ages before Marshmallow.

3. After you install the app go to settings - applications - permissions. If it has already taken some permissions without asking you, it means that the app was built for Android 5 or below. The one and only reason anyone would do that anymore is that they want to use some permissions without you noticing. Do you need an app from such people at all? If the answer is yes, deny it whatever permissions you want to deny.

4. If the app has been developed by honest people, it will ask for permissions as you use it. Again, deny whatever you want to deny.

As to what you want to deny: basically, if you don't know what the app uses it for, and it fails to explain it adequately, or if you don't use that function, feel free to deny it.  Facebook Messenger, for example, asks for a shitload of permissions. If you only use it for text communication with other Facebook users, you don't need any of them. If you send pictures you might want to give it the storage permission, if you also want to take pictures, the camera permission, if you really want to share your location, the location permission, etc.

One thing about the location permission: even if you deny it, the fuckers can sort of estimate it from your IP address. And if you hide your IP address, at least the cell towers can see your phone. Yes, even if you leave your SIM card at home. If you really, really don't want anyone to know where you are, leave the phone home.

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