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Old 19. Dec 2012, 03:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Android App Permissions

I really think the android permissions system really needs an overhaul. For example two fitness apps that I have been looking at have the ability to add/remove accounts and delete their passwords. I'm guessing this is because it integrates with their own online services they offer, but the way it is worded gives the impression that it can access any account that is associated with the device and delete your passwords, can they actually do that? If so, why? It surely needs to be better explained or changed so that each app can only access its own services.

Another great example is that I was looking for a flashlight/torch app, now there are so many of these its unreal, but every single one has the permission to allow photos to be taken at any time, some even have the ability to record video at any time, or record audio at any time. I understand that these apps work by accessing the camera of the phone to turn on the flash, but that can surely be done without having a permission to take a photo whenever they want, its quite outrageous really. I did notice in the comments/description that the app developers have noted the only reason they have access to the camera is to turn the flash on, so we have to trust them that they will not take a photo/video at any time.

So is this a limitation of how Android permissions are categorized by Google (e.g. the developers can't actually take a photo, its just gets lumped into that category as it best fits) and therefore Google's fault, or is it actually possible to create apps and serve their purpose without these extreme permissions and therefore the developers taking advantage? I have no clue.

The same is true for all the other android permissions. The descriptions are so vague that it gives the impression that the apps have an incredible amount of control and access to actions they do not need at all, or do they actually have that control and access?
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Old 19. Dec 2012, 04:01 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I understand your concerns and I'm in total agreement.

My understanding of how permissions work is that certain functions are grouped. If an app requires only some of the permissions in a specific group it's all or nothing. There's no way to segregate part of the permission. Take for instance the permission to connect to the internet; many apps require this and it's most likely so that it can check for updates. However, giving an app that kind of carte blanche permission is really disturbing.

OK, granted we are advised to only download apps from trusted sources like Google's Play store, and we are suppose to invest a certain amount of trust in Google. However, I've read at least one report that suggest Google isn't policing apps at the Play store 100%. That's doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

It seems that users are trapped between a rock and a hard place. Meaning: If you must use Android then take it as it is. Other than that, it is left to be seen if users can somehow or the other lobby Google to revamp Android with better control.
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Old 19. Dec 2012, 04:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I think the main thing that I'm confused about is what the permission actually covers/means. Lets take the flashlight example I gave above in regards to being able to take photos;

1. Is it that the app cannot actually take a photo at any time, its just that with it having access to the camera, this is the permission that best fits.

or

2. Google has a certain list of permissions and if the app has access to any part of the camera, it will allow camera actions to the app.

This is what you touched on below, but was unsure.

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Originally Posted by Joe A.TT View Post
My understanding of how permissions work is that certain functions are grouped. If an app requires only some of the permissions in a specific group it's all or nothing. There's no way to segregate part of the permission. Take for instance the permission to connect to the internet; many apps require this and it's most likely so that it can check for updates. However, giving an app that kind of carte blanche permission is really disturbing.
Your thoughts are very interesting, thanks for your input. No matter which way or how all these permissions work, I certainly feel the whole system needs an overhaul.
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Old 19. Dec 2012, 07:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Totally agreed. In fact, at one point I got so paranoid about these permissions that I purchased a special app to block specific permissions. However, it was only after I purchased the app that I found that it did not work on non-rooted phones.

The only way that I've found to restrict or limit these permissions is to root your phone. And, I'm not willing to do that; especially since my work pays for my phone and it's usage.
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Old 19. Dec 2012, 09:53 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree not to root the phone in your situation, may get you in a sticky mess with the employers haha. I will consider rooting mine in a years time once the warranty runs out itself, but not now.

I'm really not sure what to make of the permissions at the moment. I'm not happy with the system and can only hope it does get changed at some point. Has it always been this same method since the beginning or has it had modifications over time already?

Last edited by rikishi19; 19. Dec 2012 at 09:54 AM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 19. Dec 2012, 04:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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@rikishi19,

I did some digging trying to locate what I'd read before and here are 2 links that may be of interest:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/show....php?t=1658556

http://androidforums.com/android-app...w-android.html
Hopefully these will help you to understand more about permissions. I'm now learning about all this stuff myself so I can't really offer much more explanation.

As for rooting and modding and all that, I'd say XDA Developers is the goto site. Personally, I haven't tried any of that sort of thing nor am I inclined to at the mo.
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Old 20. Dec 2012, 11:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Those links provide a great explanation of the permissions, thanks. Makes things a bit clearer for me.
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