How to Limit App Permissions on Android and iOS
By Johan Curtis 6 minutes
Ever since the era of smartphones began, there was a rapid increase in the use of applications. We probably use several different apps on the daily; the first thing a person does when they wake up is to grab their phone to check their notifications. You either see who messaged you on WhatsApp or your Facebook and Instagram notifications.
These notifications are sent you to by different applications once you have granted them the access to send you to push notifications. Similarly, when you download a new application, upon launching the app for the first time, it asks for a lot of permissions to function predictably.
For example, Google Maps requires that you allow it to access your location at all times to improve location accuracy and provide better and more relevant routes.
What are App Permissions?
Application permissions are how your software controls and processes a device’s functions.
Typically, there are several types of permissions which include many functions such as the permission to access the particular device’s hardware or the user’s personal information such as contacts, photos etc. You must have noticed that when you first create a WhatsApp account, it asks you if it can access your contacts to make syncing contacts easier when you want to send a photo. It’ll also ask you if it can access your camera roll.
Types of App Permissions
There are several different types or forms of application permissions that you may come across in your day to day life. Here are a few:
- Access to Sensors: Apps such as health applications or fitness apps usually require permission to access the body sensor on your smartphone or device to monitor your activity such as steps, miles or kilometres etc.
- Requesting access to Camera: Almost every other application which allows you to send or receive photos, as well as upload photos, requires access to your camera and the photo gallery.
- Access to Microphone: Normally, messaging apps or any other application that promote users engaging amongst each other requires permission to access your microphone so that you can easily call or record messages/videos.
- Permission to access to Contacts: Many applications require access to your contacts to read, create or edit your contacts within the third-party application and to list all of your contacts from the device on your app.
- Access to Location: Applications such as navigation applications, or even regular social media apps which have location check-in features usually require the permission to access your location to determine where you are right now and where you need to be.
Dangers of App Permissions
Normally, applications asking for permission to access various sections of our device seems fairly harmless. I’m pretty sure that most don’t even pay much attention to it. Although, there is one thing that you should consider before granting any app permissions. You need to know that by consenting access, you are revealing private information to the developers of those applications.
These apps keep running in the background even after you close them. This means that they constantly have access to all the things you have allowed. It could vary from your microphone, camera, gallery, etc.
Facebook was caught listening in on your conversations through your microphone to keep track and record your preferences. It’s probably to display more relevant advertisements and make your browsing experience more accurate.
It is only one example of such actions taken by applications. It is quite concerning because the thought of someone having access to your private information is extremely disturbing. It’s a violation of your privacy!
Similarly, you must pay close attention to what permission an application is asking for and how relevant they are to that particular app. For example, a location application asking to access your camera roll is quite odd or a flashlight app asking access to the microphone or contacts. It shouldn’t be permitted to do so because it could be a potential hacker trying to commit fraud.
Many non-verified applications or smaller apps are made by such criminals who have installed malicious software to track and record the user’s data once they grant permission. This is why you need to pay attention to what an app is asking to access, and if it seems odd in any way, you must not permit it access.
Permitting applications access to just about anything can be extremely harmful to you and pose as a security threat. Some apps could keep tabs on your info and then forward it to third parties, who could then misuse your information. Similarly, hackers could easily get a hold of all the data on your smartphone and compromise your wellbeing.
How to Limit App Permissions
It is fairly easy for you to limit the number of app permissions on your device to ensure your safety and protect your information at all costs.
Here’s how you can limit your app permissions for a specific app if you own an Android:
- Go to Settings
- Select Apps
- Choose the app you wish to monitor
- Click on the app and it will display all the things the app has access to. If you wish to remove access click on the bar and turn it off.
If you want to get a more general view of which parts are being accessed by the installed apps:
- Go to Settings
- Open Apps
- Click on the three dots on the top of the screen
- Select “Configure Apps”
- Then tap “App Permissions”
- You will then get an entire list of what functions are being accessed through which apps
- Make changes as you’d like.
Moreover, here’s how you can limit app permissions on your iOS device:
- Open Settings
- Go to Privacy
- It will then display a list of functions; you can view them all individually and see what app has access to what
- After which you should be able to alter app permissions according to your choice.
App permissions may come in handy for user experience while on the app. However, it must be acknowledged that granting permission for everything to just any application is not safe at all; and one must be extra cautious before choosing to do so.
It is imperative to take a few extra precautionary measures to keep your private data secure while you surf apps.