Do you know your apps (permissions)?
How well do you know the apps in your smartphone? Do you know what kind of information your apps can access to?
I realised many people do not care about the permission(s) that their smartphone apps are asking for. Take for example iFlix’s latest update. iFlix is asking for access to the smartphone’s microphone:
Previously, iFlix had asked for permission to the smartphone’s camera. However, their customer service replied with what I felt was a ‘satisfactory’ explanation:
But it’s interesting to note that until today, iFlix has yet to implement the so-called QR code scanning feature. I did suggest to iFlix to request permission only when it is necessary. If it is a permission that might be used later, then ask only when it is being implemented.
Another example is Xiaomi’s Mi Fit apps, which in their latest update, is asking for permission to send SMS/ MMS:
I don’t understand why a fitness tracker apps will need to send out SMS/ MMS. And there is no explanation in the description for this new permission request. It is actually a good practice to explain why certain permission is requested.
I have tried reaching out to both iFlix and Xiaomi but only managed to get a “we will investigate” response from iFlix. Nothing from Xiaomi.
I feel we should all be more concerned about these permissions. With access to the microphone, an apps can actually be spying on us.
This is one good example:
Is YOUR phone spying on you? App taps into handset’s microphone to listen in on your Netflix-viewing habits
Through an app, the company eavesdrops on the programs being watched and determines if viewers are streaming content, or watching broadcast television. Symphony tracks user activity by collecting data from the background. It uses technology from Gracenote software to hear and identify the show that is playing, according to the Observer.
The apps do not filter out conversations you could be having with your friends while watching videos. So, potentially, your conversation could have been recorded and ‘stored somewhere’.
Smartphone Apps Quietly Using Phone Microphones And Cameras To Gather Data
Color uses your iPhone’s or Android phone’s microphone to detect when people are in the same room. The data on ambient noise is combined with color and lighting information from the camera to figure out who’s inside, who’s outside, who’s in one room, and who’s in another, so the app can auto-generate spontaneous temporary social networks of people who are sharing the same experience.
Yes, it does sound scary. And it can be so.
That is why I always advice people to check the permissions requested and if they are not comfortable, do not install. Write to the apps owner/ developers and ask them why such permission is needed.
Good news for Android users, if you have Android version 6 (Marshmallow) and above, you should be able to manage/ revoke these permissions. Some versions of Android like CyanogenMod actually have this feature even before Android version 6.
Be a smart user. Protect your privacy.