Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Privacy Settings Manager: maybe we'll be able to control Android app permissions?

There's an Android Market full of apps that ask for way more permissions than they should. Apps that work OK offline want internet access to download ads from banner farms that want to know your location. Some apps ask for permission to make phone calls or send out SMSs for no apparent reason. And do you really want apps that can read your contacts list to go online to nobody knows where?

Unfortunately there's little you can do to control apps with too much of an apetite for permissions. You can keep 'em offline with DroidWall, you can block excessively nosy advertisers with AdFree, or you can simply choose not to install the app at all.

But it looks like we'll get more control. Yajin Zhou at North Carolina State University is making a permissions manager that will let you grant or deny permission to read your contacts, get your location, or track your phone by its unique device identifier. They named their baby "Taming Information-Stealing Smartphone Applications."

It doesn't look like their Privacy Settings Manager will get a built-in firewall, but we already have DroidWall for that.

The app is not available yet, and the authors didn't say when they would release the app and whether it will be free or commercial.

The Privacy Settings Manager is outlined in this paper: (pdf file, so you'll need Adobe Reader or another program that can read pdfs).

If you rooted your phone you can protect your privacy (and possibly your internet bill) with DroidWall and AdAway:


UPDATE: Yajin Zhou has been beaten by Permissions Denied from Stericsson. However, Permissions Denied only denies. It doesn't spoof. So please keep going, Yajin!

Permissions Denied
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