Everyone loves free apps. So much so that billions of apps (both paid and free) are downloaded each year
between Android and IOS users. New apps are being created daily and there isn’t anything that we can’t find in an
app. But, most often the user is unaware of how much information they might be allowing when they agree to download the app.
Most apps use what they call Permissions. This means that the app may need to access certain other apps and other information on your device in order to run properly. Often times it includes your location, calendar, social media accounts, etc. It depends on the type of app and it’s purpose.The permissions request is given before the download begins. The user must accept the terms. But do we really read the terms? Do we really know what information the app is accessing?
I am a scheduler. What I mean is that I have to schedule my day. Everything from laundry to writing; meals to shopping. It’s all written down on paper. Through my lifetime, I’m sure I have wasted hundreds (if not thousands) of trees simply because I can’t function without a schedule. I need to check off a list of accomplishments.
Because of this need to schedule my day, I am always on the lookout for a great app that will help me accomplish my daily tasks. I recently came across an app that boasted some pretty awesome features. The app is Any.Do To Do List and it was rated a “top-10 must-have app” by the New York Times. Pretty impressive, right?
Since I am not reviewing the app (read further as to why), I am not going to get into the specific features Any.Do offers. However, the list was impressive, and the rating by the New York Times made me feel secure as I downloaded
the free app.
After I downloaded this potentially safe app I began to notice that my tablet was lagging. I didn’t understand why since I had recently boosted my Android device and scanned for viruses using the Clean Master and CM Security Apps. I immediately accessed both the Clean Master and Cm Security apps to look for any trouble.
After scanning my device for threats or problems it was brought to my attention that the Any.Do app was a security
threat. It at least caused a red flag. It was there that I learned that the Any.Do app had permissions to my device
and my privacy far beyond what, I feel, is necessary for a To Do List app to have.
It turns out that I had unwittingly agreed to the terms of the permissions prior to the download. I accept
responsibility for clicking the okay button without reading what I was agreeing to. It was like signing a legal
contract without understanding the terms. Who would do that? Clicking the okay button (or the “I agree” button, I
can’t remember) meant that I gave this app permission to access all of my accounts; add, change or create accounts;
set passwords; use my account; and more.
Once I learned what I had allowed this app to access I quickly deleted the Any.Do app. None of the fantastic features that the app boasted was worth the risk of my privacy. I was not able to review any of the features this app had to
offer since I felt so threatened. I then wondered what other apps I had permitted such access to and if this is
common practice among apps. I learned a few things I would like to share.
Every app needs some permissions when you install it. They’re called permissions, but in reality, they are demands.
They are requirements. If you don’t agree to the amount of access the app needs (or states it needs) then you will have to decide to take-it or leave-it. Some apps will require minimal access while others seem to require more than needed.
A simple task scheduler app should not need to set passwords, create accounts or add/change accounts on my device. Itis clear that some access to such things as my calendar, contact list, and social media sites would be needed to run all of the functions the app has to offer. However, it would seem that this app has unnecessary access to too much information.
According to Any.Do, there are over 12 million users using this app everyday. I wondered if those 12 million knew how much control they gave this company over their smart phone or tablet. I wondered what other apps had this much permission to access my accounts.
A Scary Finding
Some apps require access to the device’s camera/video app. During the initial download the permissions might not require access to audio. However, when the app goes through an automatic update the update might include access to audio. The app does not need to request permission. It’s simply included in the update and you could be completely unaware. If an app has access to your devices audio it is possible that your voice can be heard while both on and off screen! It runs along the same lines as someone placing a bug in your home.
What You Can Do
- The most important thing you can do to protect your privacy is read. Read the permissions that are
requested prior to the download. Know what you are agreeing to. If a permission doesn’t make sense to you, deny it. You won’t be able to download the app without accepting the permissions, but protecting your privacy is more important that any app that’s available.
- Download a security app such as Clean Master and CM Security that can target possible threats. If you
have downloaded a threatening app your security app will warn you.It will also show you the permissions the app is currently accessing.
- Turn off the Automatic Update on your device. New permissions are not required to actually have your
permission. An automatic update allows a previously downloaded app to add new permissions without your
To turn off Auto Updates on Android:
- Open your Apps List
- Tap on Play Store
- Access the Menu
- Choose My Apps or Settings
- Choose Auto Updates and change the setting to “Do not auto update apps”
To turn off Auto Updates on IOS
- Access your Settings
- Scroll down to “iTunes &App Store”
- Locate the Automatic Downloads section and slide the green switch to “OFF”
What Not To Do
Don’t be like me. Before downloading any new app read everything there is about the app. Don’t agree to permissions
unless you fully understand what you’re agreeing to. And don’t think that your smartphone or tablet is free from privacy, information theft and viruses. Install a security app today.