If you are an Android user and haven’t noticed some of those Android app permissions on your phone, then you may have been using your Android phone without checking the details.
Well, Android apps would not just naturally access everything on your phone without you allowing it. So, today, we are going to know all that is important about app permissions and how we can take charge.
In case you don’t know, every app on your smartphone actually needs permission to access and modify data/settings on your device. That’s why an app can turn on/off your location settings, reduce your screen brightness, read your phone logs etc without your knowledge.
Actually, on older Android versions, you might not have all the open settings to edit permissions like the way its possible on Android 6.0 Marshmallow and higher.
Because of our user data and privacy concerns, it’s important to know what permissions an app is requesting and which permissions you should accept.
How To Manage Android App Permissions To Protect Your Privacy
When you install an app from Google Play or any third party website on a device running Android 6.0 and up, you control which capabilities or information that app can access—known as permissions. For example, an app might want permission to see your device contacts or location. You can control which permissions an app can access after the app installs on your device.
Below are the permissions that apps may request on your Android device.
An app can use your device’s contacts, which may include the ability to read and modify your contacts.
Your contacts are special and should be kept safe and free from public eyes. So, if you are installing an app and its requesting to view or access your contacts, you should be very careful.
Unless an app can’t function properly without allowing access to contacts, one should be careful with allowing apps to access Contacts.
E.g, a File Manager or Gallery app asking for access to contacts doesn’t sound good. Only allow access to Contacts if the app needs that permission and you understand the effects. An app like Truecaller or Google Contacts will need to have access to contacts to work effectively.
When you allow an Android app permission to access your calendar, the app will be able to read calendar events and other details. The app can read all the calendar events stored on your phone and even share/save your calendar data.
The app can add, remove, or change calendar events on your phone. The app will be able to send messages that may have info from the calendar or modify/change calendar events.
If you think allowing an app to access your calendar will step into your privacy and you don’t trust the app, it’s better you only allow the permissions you understand and feel safe with.
Turning on location services on your Android smartphone is most times very useful. It could help you tract your phone or enable apps that provide location based services to work well.
Location access may include:
- Approximate location (network-based)
- Precise location (GPS and network-based)
- Access extra location provider commands
- GPS access
When you allow an app access to your location, the app can get your location based on network sources such as phone masts and WiFi networks. With access to your location, an app can know where you are or even have a data of your different locations.
Most apps have the ability to read other apps information as well as info from your device. An app like Nova Launcher can read your notifications from other apps to enable it work perfectly. Apps that optimize your Android device and check its performance mostly need this permission.
With device & app history permission granted, an app can do one or more of the following:
- Read sensitive log data
- Retrieve system internal state
- Read your web bookmarks and history
- Retrieve running apps
There’s also the permission that will allow an app to access your cellular data settings. An app can use settings that control your mobile data connection and potentially the data you receive.
It’s advisable to always read the requests from an app before accepting or rejecting it. On newer Android version, most apps will request for permissions at first start, so read before hitting the OK button.
An app can use your account and/or profile information on your device. Identity access may include the ability to:
- Find accounts on the device
- Read your own contact card (example: name and contact information)
- Modify your own contact card
- Add or remove accounts
Granting an app access to your SMS will give the app permissions to receive, view or even change your SMS. Most apps can secretly send SMS via your phone without your knowledge if you permit it.
Depending on your plan, you may be charged by your carrier for text or multimedia messages.
With SMS access, an app can use your device’s text messaging (SMS) and/or multimedia messaging service (MMS). This group may include the ability to use text, picture, or video messages.
SMS access may include the ability to:
- Receive text messages (SMS)
- Read your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- Receive text messages (MMS, like a picture or video message)
- Edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)
- Send SMS messages; this may cost you money
- Receive text messages (WAP)
Apps like Whatsapp, Telegram and a few others that need to verify your number could be granted SMS access to enable the apps to work properly.
An app like a File Manager, e.g ES Explorer or a Web browser like UC Browser doesn’t need any SMS permission access unless you actually know what you are dong.
Your calls are very important and really should be kept private. Once anyone has full access to your phone calls, a lot of harm can be done to you or those whom you connect to. This is why granting apps permission to access your phone/call data should be done carefully.
An app can use your phone and/or its call history without your knowledge after allowing the app access to that feature. Depending on your plan, you may be charged by your carrier for phone calls. Phone access may include the ability to:
- Directly call phone numbers; this may cost you money
- Write call log (example: call history)
- Read call log
- Reroute outgoing calls
- Modify phone state
- Make calls without your intervention
Apps like Truecaller, Google Contacts, Whatsapp, Telegram, Facebook etc are popularly known apps that need access to your phone to work properly. But if an app you don’t just trust is asking for irrelevant permissions, it’s better to deny it and allow the core features to be accessible.
Gallery apps, Photo editors and some other apps need access to your photos and media files to work properly. File Manager apps like ES File Explorer, X-Plore and even web browsers will also ask for permissions to access your files.
Without permission to access your photos, most apps that require it would not work well.
Permission or access to Photos/Media/Files access may include the ability to:
- Read the contents of your USB storage (example: SD card)
- Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
- Format external storage
- Mount or unmount external storage
Your photos can be uploaded or stored by an app tonce it has the permissions to access those data on your phone. Care should be taken whenever one is using apps that are requesting access to your private files.
Most apps that you will use for taking photos or have features related to photography will always need access to your camera. Apps for taking beauty selfies, apps for scanning documents, apps for video calls or instant messaging etc, will need access to your camera.
Camera access may include the ability to:
- Take pictures
- Record video
An app that is permitted to access your camera will be able to take photos or record videos too. You should read the permission in detail before accepting any.
Microphone access may include the ability to record audio. You must have seen Whatsapp and other instant messaging apps that have the voice recording feature will always ask for permission to use the device’s microphone.
This is important if you want the app to work as intended. If an app really needs such permissions to work properly, it should be granted unless it’s not a trusted app.
An app can access your device’s Wi-Fi connection information, like if Wi-Fi is turned on and the name(s) of connected devices. Wi-Fi connection information access may include the ability to view Wi-Fi connections.
Note: Since apps typically access the Internet, you’ll only see the Wi-Fi connection information permission group on the download screen when installing an app. Apps no longer display the “full internet access” permission on the download screen, but you can always see the full list of permissions by following the instructions under the “See all permissions for a specific app” section above.
With your permission, an app can control Bluetooth on your device, which includes broadcasting to or getting information about nearby Bluetooth devices. Although not like other permissions, one should cross check before giving unnecessary permissions to apps.
This permission will allow the app to access data from wearable sensors, such as heart rate monitors, receive periodic updates on physical activity levels and more.
An app can access your device ID(s), phone number, whether you’re on the phone, and the number connected by a call. Device ID & call information may include the ability to read phone status and identity.
An app can use custom settings provided by your device manufacturer or application-specific permissions.
How To Control your app permissions on Android 6.0 and up
When you install an app from Google Play on a device running Android 6.0 and up or on a Chromebook, you control which capabilities or information that app can access—known as permissions.
For example, an app might want permission to see your device contacts, control WiFi or access your location. You can control which permissions an app can access after the app installs on your device.
When you download apps that are built for Android 6.0 and up, you can allow or deny permissions once you start using them.
When an app installed on your device updates, there may be changes to the permissions for that app.
For apps installed on your device
- On your device, open the main Settings app .
- Tap Apps or Application Manager (depending on your device, this may look different).
- Tap the app you want to update.
- Tap Permissions.
- Turn permissions on or off.
If you have mistakenly denied permissions to some apps and you can’t figure out how to fix them, you might just go to your all apps tab in settings and reset app preferences. You will then have to accept any app permission when you open that app again, depending on the Android version your device is running.
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