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App permissions and privacy policy: Why is it important to keep this in check

India Today logo India Today 25-01-2022 Ankita Garg

App permissions are something that is very important but is ignored by most people. There are a lot of users who simply hop on to Google Play Store or App store, search for an app, and install it without even reviewing the details. This is what puts your data at risk. Similarly, no one really reads the privacy policy of an app before downloading an app. Here's everything you need to know about these two important things.

Why do you need to read privacy policy of apps before downloading them?

Imagine, if WhatsApp hadn't announced that it was making changes to its privacy policy, then no one would have known that the messaging service would be able to read some of your conversations with business accounts and use them for advertising. The company reported that it will "clearly label conversations with businesses that are choosing to use hosting services from Facebook."

WhatsApp did clarify that your personal chats with friends and family will remain private as they are end-to-end encrypted. But this still irked some of the privacy-conscious users, which is why several people switched to different messaging platforms. If you are someone who is concerned about your personal data, then it is important to read privacy policy of every app before downloading.

The privacy policy basically tells you what all data is collected, how it is used, whether it is shared with other third-party services, and more. Yes, it is a bit annoying to read the privacy policy of all the apps, but you will at least be aware of how your personal data will be used and what all information will be collected.

Why is it important to keep a check on "App permissions"?

Once you install an app, you should keep a check on the permissions that you give to that application. "App Permissions" is a section in your phone's settings and is pretty self-explanatory. This basically lets you decide what an app is allowed to use or do on a smartphone. For example, if you deny permission to location, then the app won't be able to keep a track of your visits.

When you first open an app after installing it, you are asked to give certain permissions and some users blindly accept them. The apps then take advantage of this and get access to those features that aren't required to run them, purely with an intention to steal or collect your personal data without your authorisation. Keeping a track of permissions will also help keep your phone and data safe from malicious apps too.

For example, Truecaller has permissions for SMS and Camera, which is not really required. This basically means that the app is able to read your important bank messages, which some of you might not be comfortable with. Similarly, Outlook doesn't have access to any permission, but you will notice that Gmail has access to both Camera and Microphone, among others.

How to modify App permissions?

You will find this in your phone's settings > Apps and Notifications > App Permissions. (This is for OnePlus smartphones, but the process is mostly similar for other phones too. One can simply search for "App Permissions" on the search bar.) Here, you will be able to check permissions for all the apps. Alternatively, you can long-press on an app, tap on "App info," and tap again on Permissions. You can repeat this processor for every app.

Google has offered an important privacy feature with Android 12 - Privacy Dashboard. This lets you check all the permissions that have been used by apps in the past 24 hours. You also get to know the number of times as well as the names of the apps. So, if you are suspicious about anything, then you can modify permissions. Those who have Android 12 can also change location settings for apps. If you don't want an app to access your precise location, then you can turn off this option. Your device will then only approximate location for apps like Weather.

Here's a look at a list of app permissions and what they do when they are enabled for an app.

Types of App Permissions on your Android phone

-Body sensors: The apps get sensor information about your vital signs from paired health monitoring devices.

-Calendar: Used by apps to read, edit or create calendar events.

-Call logs: Access and change your call history.

-Camera: It is for using your phone's camera to take pictures or videos.

-Contacts: This can be used to access, read, or edit your contacts list.

-Location: It gives access to your device's location.

-Microphone: With this permission, an app can record audio.

-Nearby Bluetooth devices: This helps an app discover and connect to nearby devices.

-Phone: Make and manage phone calls. This gives access to your phone number and network info.

-Physical activity: This offers information on your activity like walking, biking, step count, and more.

-SMS: This gives access to incoming and send outgoing text messages.

-Files and media: This allows an app to use photos, media, and other files on your smartphone.

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