Understanding and Controlling App Permissions

When you first launch a new app on your smartphone, it is likely that you are going to receive a number of popup app permission requests before you can access the app itself. This is because apps can only interact with the larger environment of your smartphone if they are given user permission to do so. This is a safeguard built into the phone so that you can protect your data and your device from unwanted intrusion by third parties. However, many apps are designed so that their primary functions, like finding you directions to get to your dinner reservation, are reliant on having access to certain aspects of your platform. In this example, the map would need to access your geographical location in order to determine the best route for you to get to your reservation on time.

So how do you know which app permissions to grant and which to deny? A good rule to follow is to not allow access to any areas of your phone that an app doesn’t need to perform its primary function(s). In the example above, for instance, accessing your geographical location is vital for the mapping app to determine your best route. However, it probably doesn’t need access to the photographs stored on your phone. Don’t worry about destroying your apps, either, by denying them permissions. If such a change proves problematic to the functioning of the app, you can always grant permission at a later time.

Common App Permissions

Calendar: Apps would have access to―and possibly the ability to update―your calendar.

Camera: Apps would have access the camera on your phone. You should note that photos taken with the camera may provide additional data like the location and time at which a photo was taken.

Contacts: Apps would have access to your contacts and any additional information you have stored within, such as phone numbers and email addresses.

Location/Location Services: Apps would have access to your location, determined via GPS, Bluetooth connections, Wi-Fi Hotspots and/or cell tower locations.

Media and Music: Apps would have access to the media stored on your phone and your use of that media.

Microphone: Apps would have access to your microphone. This is used for both voice and video recording.

Phone: Apps would have access to your phone number and network info. This is often required for VoiP access.

Photos: Apps would have access to the photographs stored on your phone and possibly the ability to add images to your library. As with camera permissions, be aware that photographs can contain additional information beyond just the image.

Reminders: Apps will have access to reminders you set for yourself.

SMS: Apps would have permission to read, write and send SMS and possibly MMS messages.

Storage: Apps would have permission to read and write information onto your phones internal―and possibly external―storage.

App Permission control for iOS

Controlling app permissions is a fairly simple process on iOS systems. First navigate to the Settings app. Scroll down and tap the Privacy section. There you will find a number of different types of permissions. Tap any one to see what apps are granted permission for that particular type of app permission. Use the toggle switches to turn on or disable any apps you do or do not want to allow that specific access. Additionally, if you navigate back to the Settings app and scroll down, the entries towards the bottom of the page are app permissions broken out by each individual app. You may find additional or more detailed permissions under these sections.

App Permission Control for Android

Controlling app permissions on an Android device can vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Generally, it follows this procedure with just a slight variation or two. Navigate to the Settings app and then the Apps & Notifications menu. Tap on the app that you want to look at, and then select Permissions. This will display all the app permissions for that particular app. You can toggle them on or off. For app permissions that are particularly vital to an app’s functioning, you may get an additional prompt to confirm if you truly want to disable it.

Controlling what app permissions you allow or disallow is a personal decision, but it’s important to make those choices consciously. Be sure to check you permissions once every few months to stay on top of the process.

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