Digital security: 5 app permissions to review in 2023

Applications installed on Android or iPhone (iOS) mobiles require a series of permissions to function, and you can verify the necessary accesses as soon as you open the app for the first time. Messaging apps, for example, can request permission from your phone’s address book, microphone and even camera, while map apps use motion sensors and location coordinates to suggest routes and directions. The problem is that not all of these permissions are always needed, and depending on the app, they can be abused.

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Come to think of it, the TechAll you have collected five authorizations to review in 2023 and increase your online security. Find out what they are and how to revoke them in the following lines.

Check out five app permissions that can be potentially dangerous and learn how to revoke them on Android and iPhone (iOS) — Photo: Thássius Veloso/TechTudo

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1. Access to all photos in the gallery

Allowing access to all photos in your device’s gallery can raise a number of privacy concerns. Malicious applications can abuse access to harvest potentially sensitive images, which can compromise user privacy and security. Furthermore, in the case of apps that use artificial intelligence to process images, it is possible that the use of this type of data is even more obscure, given that, in many cases, privacy policies are unclear in this regard.

On the bright side, you no longer need to allow apps to access your entire gallery. That’s because, starting with iOS 14 and Android 13, you can only select a few specific photos that apps can access. That way, you don’t have to share your entire gallery with apps, which reduces the risk of photos leaking or falling into the hands of strangers, for example. The option is given every time you open an app for the first time, just tap “Select photos and videos”. You can change your preferences later too, go to the individual settings of each app.

New photo picker available on Android 13 — Photos: Play/Developers

2. Authorization for Continuous and/or Accurate Tracking

The user’s location permission may be considered sensitive data and, therefore, it is not recommended to grant access to any application. For example, apps for maps, delivery, and transportation can request access to view routes and driving directions, and show restaurants near you. However, there are apps that misuse the resource to sell this data to advertising companies. With the exact coordinates, companies can use this information to create a more relevant profile of the user and, therefore, use it to launch mass advertisements.

However, in newer models of Android and iPhone (iOS) mobile phones with more up-to-date versions of the operating systems, it is possible to choose to use the approximate location in the applications, which prevents frequent access to the user’s GPS coordinates. It is worth mentioning that it is also possible to choose to share the location only when the app is in use, which prevents the program from accessing the data when it is running in the background, thus avoiding the collection of information without the user’s consent .

Turn off Google location accuracy — Photo: Playback/Clara Fabro

3. Access to your address book

Allowing access to contacts saved in the calendar is quite controversial. While messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram use the feature to check if other contacts are using the platforms to facilitate communication between users, other apps use the access to send spam, such as phishing links.

Therefore, avoid granting permission to applications that expressly don’t need it to work. Photo editing, shopping, and gaming apps have no reason to require this access. Therefore, the recommendation is not to share it with similar apps.

Prevent an app from accessing your address book — Photo: Playback/Clara Fabro

4. App activity monitoring

It is common for applications installed on mobile phones to communicate with other platforms to track user information in order to create a consumption profile. In possession of this data, they can share it with companies that run advertisements, in order to generate revenue for the app in question.

Before the iOS 14 update, it was not possible to control this tracking on iPhone phones, but the update now allows users to block cross-site activity. With the feature, you can choose to allow or block apps from sending your data to other platforms, allowing the user to monitor how their information is being used.

Access to the microphone can also be exploited by some apps, compromising user privacy. In 2017, the American newspaper The New York Times revealed a scandal concerning the abusive use of these permissions in game applications available on the Google and Apple stores.

The apps requested permission from the device’s microphone and used a content recognition system to identify the most watched movies and TV shows by users, and then activated advertising. Therefore, if the user was used to watching sports, he would receive more ads on the subject on his mobile phone.

Messaging apps can request microphone access to send voice messages — Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes/TechTudo

In this sense, it is important to review the authorization if you have given it to many applications installed on your mobile phone. Messengers like WhatsApp and audio transcription apps need the feature to send voice messages and transcribe words, but utility apps like maps, games and shopping don’t need the feature to work.

It’s worth mentioning that starting with iOS 14 and Android 12, Apple and Google rolled out a privacy feature that shows an indicator in the top corner of the screen when an app is accessing your device’s microphone. The feature is particularly useful because it allows you to check when an app is accessing the microphone without the user’s consent.

How to review app permissions on iPhone (iOS) and Android

To revoke app permissions on Android, access your phone’s settings and go to the “Apps” tab. Then select the desired app and tap “Permissions”. After that, check all the accesses enabled for the application and choose “Do not allow” to revoke them.

Revoking camera and microphone access on Android — Photo: Gisele Souza/TechTudo

On the iPhone (iOS), access the phone settings and swipe the screen down until you find the app you want. Then tap it. On the next screen, to revoke access, simply deactivate the button next to the permissions.

Revoking access to the iPhone’s microphone and camera — Photo: Playback/Clara Fabro

With information from Use And 9to5Mac

See also: 5 tips to use WhatsApp safely

WhatsApp: five tips for using the app safely

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