As the Cambridge Analytica scandal which had Facebook involved, stirred a huge discussion about privacy concerns in the community, people diverted to apps permissions once again. More recently, Facebook has been requesting to access facial recognition features on mobile phones and it has alarmed privacy concerns throughout the world.
For people who are conscious about their digital privacy, understanding how android permissions work is fundamental to it. Knowing that the applications we download on our personal mobile phones can access information, certainly raises concern for the safety of our personal data.
The good news is we can choose what an application is permitted to access through our mobile phones while the bad news is, it’s hard to understand what exactly are we permitting those applications to do? For example, if WhatsApp asks permission to access microphone, is it only asking to access it when we make a call or send a voice note or are we allowing it use it anytime it wants?
The confusion with permissions is perhaps directly linked to how Google displays us information about these permissions. Least to say, the details of these permission are not enough for a layman user to understand what exactly an app wants to do when we allow it to access our phone. Nevertheless, Android has improved its apps permission system over the time and now allows users to manage the permission in a comprehensive way by allocating individual app permissions for Android 6.0 or higher. It also important to know that these permissions are mostly essential to the basic functionalities of many apps and revoking them could halt their functionality.
After Android updated its permission system, it allowed for ‘Sub permissions’. These sub permissions could add additional permissions in one category, for example if an app was allowed to access phone status and identity, after updating the app, it could automatically include directly sending messages.
With the advancement, there is big gap that Android needs to fill in terms of making permissions more understandable. It can be made easier to comprehend app permissions by allowing users to manage them in more detail and possibly provide users a way to see what data the apps are accessing and have been storing on their servers. Ensuring privacy through transparency is the way to make users more aware of the choices they make about letting application access their personal data and consequently diminishing the possibilities of privacy scandals.