Do App Permissions Really Tell Us What Our Apps Are Capable of?

Ever since the Facebook privacy breach incident, people have become a lot more concerned about their privacy rights and how to make sure that their personal information is being kept safe. The Facebook scandal got so big that the social media website’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was even called into congress for questioning and to find out why exactly was a social media website taking personal information from people’s android phones (such as their call log history).

The congress and Zuckerberg meeting was supposed to shed light on how app permission settings worked, however, it only made clear just how vague of an idea people have about app permissions. Most apps nowadays have become powerful enough to easily suck up loads of data from your phone within seconds, regardless of whether you have an iPhone or an android device, our phones come equipped with a variety of sensors that can gather accurate data about our whereabouts, likes and dislikes, and our daily routine.

There have been a number of independent and anonymous app developers who have shared with us just how accurately apps track us, for instance, some apps that ask for location permissions set themselves to always have access to your location settings, this allows them to track patterns in your movements, like how frequently you go somewhere and where do you live. This might sound scary, but it does not mean that you should begin denying device access to every app since this could prevent certain apps from functioning properly, but it is advisable to prevent apps from accessing your device at all times.

Now, most of the times, having apps access your location or something else like that should not be too concerning as this data does nothing more than provide app developers with insights on their customers’ behavioural patterns. However, there are some apps that go overboard and actually starting messing about with your personal information, for example; Pokémon Go had the ability to go through and modify a user’s Google account. Activities such as these by apps cause people to panic and start worrying about their privacy.

While there are certain guidelines dictated by Apple and Google when it comes to app development and permission access, both of these companies do not have any sure way of enforcing these guidelines. They can only advise and hope that app developers heed what they have to say, but we cannot say that Google and Apple have done nothing about this problem. Both companies have made improvements to their OS over time in order to make it more secure and ensure that app permissions do what they are intended to do, acting as gateways that give users control over what to let in and what to keep out.

Unfortunately, we are still a long way from being completely safe from app developers who try to breach our privacy by taking advantage of our general lack of understanding when it comes to app permissions.

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