Your Flashlight May be Spying On You!

Do you think about the permissions that an app asks for?  A recent ITWorld article delves into the subject and while the article was testing Android apps, the issue is a concern, although a somewhat lesser concern, for Windows and iOS apps as well.

The issue at hand is that apps ask for certain permissions and you as the user have no idea what that app may or may not do with those permissions.  The developer may not have thought about the implications of asking for all those permissions.  OR the app may have designs that you are not aware of.

For example, the app might look at your wifi connections to figure out your location to present ads for stores that are nearby.  You might think this is ok – or you might not.

In the article, it gives a table of permissions that some flashlight apps ask for.  For example, some ask to be able to take pictures and videos.  Why would a flashlight app ask for that permission.  Could be benign.  Could be malicious.

Until users stop installing apps that ask for too many permissions (or the Android OS is modified to allow you to pick and choose which of the permissions an app asks for that you grant – which I hear is on the way), nothing will change.

In the iOS world you already have more flexibility in granting requested permissions or not.

BUT, you as a user have to consciously pay attention and either not grant permissions if you see something that concerns you or not install the app.  THAT TAKES A LITTLE BIT OF EFFORT.  AND, it might mean that you don’t use a particular app.

Remember, if an app asks for a permission – say access to your contacts – and you allow it, that app could send your entire contact list to a hacker in Eastern Europe and you would never know.  Think about that for a minute.

Or your pictures might show up on the internet.  Those private ones.

You are the only one that can lock things down.  Practice responsible apping. 🙂

Mitch Tanenbaum

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