While downloading an application from an app store, such as Android Market, users have to permit it to do certain things before it can operate.
However, not all apps require permission and therefore it is vital for users to go through the list of permissions the app asks for. For example, if all an app does is provide wallpapers, but it wants access to the user’s personal information, there is no reason to permit it.
Most of the time, Google does a fairly good job of informing users how intrusive the apps on its store are. There are altogether 22 app permissions and Google issues a different warning for each, which is a good thing. The only problem is that most users don’t read the terms and conditions and just look for the ‘OK’ or ‘I Accept’ button. So, effectively, what happens is that users end up giving even those permissions they don’t want to provide.
At the same time, just because an app is asking for permission doesn’t mean it won’t do anything wrong once it is installed in the phone. Since Google is transparent about what each app is going to access it is time people started reading about the kind of permissions they are giving.
Google, on its part, can try to adopt a walled garden approach similar to Apple’s, which means it will have to scrutinise the apps that are asking for requisite permissions and those that are asking for unnecessary permissions, in order to protect users.
Whenever the existence of malicious apps on Android has been brought to Google’s notice, the company has taken prompt action, but its approach has been reactive, whereas Apple pro-actively tries to protect users.
If users understand what an app does and why it needs certain permissions they will make the right decisions.
Whenever granting permission costs money people will be interested in reading the fine print. They’d also like to know if the app will make calls. A service like Google Voice may need to make phone calls but a ringtone app doesn’t require any such leeway.
Facebook app might ask users for permission to keep a tab on their location but those people who don’t want to disclose this information should be able to disable the feature.
If you are in doubt about the permissions an app is asking for you could email the app’s developers who will respond if they have nothing to hide.