Why you always need to know about App permissions

T's and C's App-ly - here's why you always read the the App permissions first...

The app store is a fundamental feature of any smartphone these days. A device is now heavily reliant on the apps you can download on them, and we as consumers continue to be dazzled by the latest free games, fitness partners etc. that continue to be released in the store.

There is a difference between the way in which the Apple Store and Android users download their applications as far as permission is concerned. Most applications ask for multiple permissions to be granted by the user, but depending on whether you have an Apple or an Android device, these requests are made at different stages.

When do apps require permissions?

You will be notified of the required permissions an app requires BEFORE you download from Google Play, whereas apps downloaded from the Apple Store will request permission the first time you use the app. So what exactly is going on here? Should you really be worried about what your app is looking to hijack in order to operate with optimal efficiency?

Yes, you certainly should be concerned about it. Apps request certain data and features from your device to work properly. For instance, the top grossing application of 2016, Pokemon Go, requires the use of the GPS on your phone. There are many other applications that request more permissions than they should, which means we are running the risk by accepting these.

iOS App permissions
  • When you install a new application you are asked for permission by the app to use a number of device features

  • Many apps push their luck with permission requests asking for more than they actually need

  • There are potential security issues presented by apps that ask for more from your phone including cyber crime

Potential risks of allowing permissions

Take Flashlight apps for example, which sounds pretty straightforward enough. I mean what permissions is a flashlight on your phone going to need other than the flashlight on your phone? How about GPS data, messaging, audio recording and the camera? This is exactly what some of the Flashlight apps in the App Store will request permission to use.

So why would an app that has no clear requirement for a certain device feature, still request permission to use it? It actually has nothing to do with helping the application to function. Instead, it's down to advertising, with the app adapting to the user's location and interests. Flashlight apps will use your GPS and QR code to look at your browsing history and favourites.

There are some obvious risks being taken by the user when they install an app, with one of these risks being that the final destination of this information is not clear. An even bigger security risk is that cybercriminals can use these apps as a means of accessing numerous device features.

With control of your internet connectivity, cyber criminals could potentially install malware onto your device and use this to obtain passwords and other sensitive information.

So what should you do when faced with the dilemma of downloading apps onto your smartphone from now on? The simple answer is to keep a close eye on what information the app would like to access once it's downloaded.