Whenever you download an Android app, you are required to grant app permissions. If you’re like most people, you’ll click on Allow without even reading the permissions so the app can install. The problem is – that app now has access to all data and hardware on your Android device. Mostly the permissions will be related to the performance of the app. For example, if you install a caller ID service, it will need access to your contacts, SMS, and other messages.
These are termed as normal permissions. And then there are other kinds of permissions which can threaten your privacy. However cautious you are of what you download from the Play store, you should be well informed about app permissions for the sake of your device security.
How to Use Android App Permissions Smartly
What are ‘Dangerous Permissions’?
Normal permissions are for generic purposes, which means these permissions go without saying. If you install an Android app, there is no need to explain that the app can connect to the internet without your permission. This is the case with all the apps you install. These are default permission settings and they are not a risk to your personal and private information.
But some malicious apps go overboard in their demand to access your contacts, camera, files, emails, and personal data. These permissions are in no way related to the main purpose of the installed app. These are the ‘dangerous permissions’ you should be aware of. For beginners, it’s always smart to check whether a certain app is safe to install on your Android device or not.
How to Use Android App Permissions Smartly
For example, an offline English dictionary may need access to your microphone for pronunciation, but it most definitely does not need to know your location. So, how to use Android app permissions in a smart way and what aspects should you look out for?
1. Read the permissions before installing the app
On the Google Play store, search for the app and in the developer’s information, click ‘Permission details’ located at the bottom and here you can find the permission required.
2. Use an antivirus
To restrict specific permissions for certain apps, you can use antivirus software installed on the device by checking for fishy and sketchy permissions. Schedule a timely scan to filter out dangerous apps.
Check the system settings
For installed apps, check the permissions by going to settings and visiting the app permissions. Alternatively, find out which apps have access to a specific functionality. Find out the apps that request more permissions than they need.
Every Android device has special privileges apart from general permissions. They are:
Device administrator privileges or admin rights
These are the permissions accessed by antivirus software or in-built security apps on the device like anti-theft apps which can’t be uninstalled.
Permanently deleting all data from the device and locking some apps after a number of failed attempts to open or changing the passwords – all these are admin rights. Malicious apps with dubious permission requests can corrupt the data using admin rights.
Root privileges or root access
These are the most dangerous permission settings because if a malicious app can access root privileges, then irrespective of which permissions you have restricted for the app, your data is not safe. But thankfully, Android has inbuilt security to block such permissions.
Other Dangerous Permissions You must be Wary Of
A photo sharing social media app has access to the camera, then it has access to the gallery too. Some functionalities are grouped together and access to one implies permission to access everything within that group. This could spell bad news in some cases.
Contact, Phone, and message apps
These require access to a phone number, call register, call forwarding, voicemails, contacts, SMS, WAP push messages, MMS messages, service provider messages, and also your billing information. Most contacts are also synced to Google account or other email accounts.
As much as the apps provide you convenience, if the installed app is malicious, it can collect your sensitive data to spy on your phone and messaging habits and use them against you. These can display targeted ads on your device or even send and receive emails, messages, target your contacts with scams and make phone calls without your knowledge. Subscribing to unwanted paid services, making calls to premium service providers can shoot your bills through the roof.
Camera and microphone
Some apps have access to your smartphone’s microphone. They are useful for your diction if you are, say, learning a new language or making a podcast, etc. Photo editing apps and camera apps have permission to take pictures. The darker side of these is that they can use these permissions to make secret audio or video recordings of personal conversations.
To book a taxi or for an e-commerce app, you share your location. Apps can track your whereabouts by geotagging your photos and misuse the information for criminal offenses.
Most apps seek permission to download files to a directory. Saved documents and confidential files are at risk if sketchy apps get hold of them.
Calendar and fitness apps
Health monitoring apps use body sensors to spy on your health condition and calendar can make changes to your schedules and meeting times causing you to miss crucial events.
How to Turn Android App Permissions On or Off
In order to change the permissions you have granted to a certain app, follow these steps:
- On your device, open the main Settings app .
- Tap Apps or Application Manager (depending on your device, this may look different).
- Tap the app you want to update.
- Tap Permissions.
- Turn permissions on or off.
Always Check Your Android App Permissions
In previous Android versions, there was no scope to customize the permissions you could grant to the app. You were not allowed to choose the limit of access an app had to your data. If you accepted the terms, the app was installed, otherwise, you had to look for another similar app.
But after the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow in late 2015, you can now download and install an app and then set permissions- limiting to only the ones you choose. While updating some apps, you might notice that get the same notification twice; the second one is from Android which is the actual permission request.
Also, you can decide whether you want to install the updates and/or opt for additional permissions like in-app purchases. Still, there are many newer apps from developers who intentionally set the app permission request to appear before installing.
Google has instructed the app developers to explain the permissions to the users and security measures are in place to block malicious apps. However, it is important for you to read carefully and understand the permissions before you click the accept button while installing an Android app. For additional security and privacy, it’s always best to use a VPN on your Android device as well.