The nice thing about downloading apps from the Google Play store is that you are shown explicitly what permissions an app asks for before you accept a download. However, this is only a list of permission types, and not what an app can or will actually do. There are 124 different types of permissions an Android app can ask for, and it’s wise to gain knowledge around what they actually mean, especially considering that apps in Google Play are not subject to the same level of security and prescreening as those in the Apple Store.
33% of Android apps request more permissions than they need, according to a study in 2012 by the UC Berkley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department. After surveying users as part of the same study, researchers found that 97% of the users were not able to correctly state the purpose and functions of all the app permissions.
Why should you pay special attention to the permissions?
With the different Android app permissions someone can:
Control your outgoing calls
Monitor/record your screen while you text, view pictures, enter personal information
Record conversations in the room when not on a call
These are only to name a few. So what is there to do?
There are quite a few ways you can take precaution when it comes to Android app security:
-Do your research, read reviews, pay attention to app ratings before you hit install
-Only download apps from well-known, trusted app stores (Google Play)
-Pay close attention to the app permissions. If something looks fishy, say you can’t think of why a music app would need your location, don’t download the app.
-Use mobile security to ensure apps aren’t acting suspicious
If you do really need an app that has sketchy permissions, there are some trusted apps that may help protect your privacy:
PDroid Privacy Protection – monitors the types of app permissions for each app you have installed, and you can either allow or reject the permissions without breaking the app
LBE Privacy Guard – notifies you when an app is trying to access information and you can either allow or block that action. Depending on what permission you block, the app may crash.
PermissionDog – makes up a list of how dangerous your apps are
Pocket Permissions – an information guide for the different types of app permissions. Good for researching the permissions and learning exactly what you’re being asked