Android App Permission Settings

The biggest question mark on Android is about security and I got a chance to dig deeper into it through an app called AirDroid. The app is supposed to help users to connect with their device over the web, eliminating cable connection. I was curious about the permission settings and also wanted to know to what extent the app can take control of the device. Unlike any other app I used so far, AirDroid has the longest list of App Permission requests. I have provided screens which exactly tell us all the App Permissions requested, unfortunately not many actually read them all! I would like to make it clear that, I have nothing against the app or the people behind it. The app has been there long enough and enough people love to use it. Rather I am looking to throw some light on how people give control of their private information unknowingly.

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Ability to share is easier in Android than iOS, but the problem is, sharing cannot be controlled step by step. If you want to use facebook or snapseed on iOS, by default photos are not permitted to be accessed by apps. Steve Jobs insisted about customer privacy in one of his AllThingsD appearances. Apple continues to let the world know about their intent with regards to Commitment to Customer Privacy on their website homepage while in Android open world anyone can do almost anything! When I launched the App for the first time, it showed up some usual introduction screens after which I chose not to sign up for anything but started with the app.

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First surprise came when it showed the name of the Wi-fi my phone connected on. The ‘Device’ link showed everything that was running on on the phone. So this app can help you release memory and stuff like that (if you really believe in freeing up memory manually. Moreover this app could uninstall any of the existing apps on your device as well. I was stunned when this app could access all your phone settings in one tap. I went back to the app settings to realise, the app was designed to take complete control of the phone and only one mundane permission request during the installation. This app runs in the background as a service and hence it is prone to eating up your data and burning battery even when the phone is not in active utilisation.

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As I write this, AirDroid has exactly 115,061 five star ratings with nearly 10 million installations. As I mentioned previously, this could arguably one of the most successful apps on Android. Even if people want to share their all app data, call logs and stuff like that, why do we have no system to ask ’em every time. People love open system with a claim of it being easy to customise according to ones needs and tastes. However, smartphones are the most vital computing devices with lots of personal data in it. Google has already told to the world that, ‘If you use Gmail you have no expectation of privacy‘. So the following questions remain on the most platform that powers approximately 80% smartphones on the planet:

  • Why neither Google nor smartphone manufacturer do not bother customer security?
  • When someone pays as much as $600 for a smartphone can he not expect a bear minimum security standards from the device?
  • Why is there a notion that, only viruses can harm the user when so much personal data is getting shared across apps, without user’s knowledge?