Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

Privacy Danger from Android Flashlight and other apps

A friend sent a video about the dangers of  Flashlight apps for Android based devices.   Let me say that I am an App Junkie with dozens of apps on my phone and tablet.

The problem is that these apps are apparently being used to spy on your devices. Every app tells you what permissions it needs in order to be installed. However, most of us ignore that notice.

Think about it.. All a flashlight app needs to do is turn on the light on your phone.. That’s it.  Why would it need your location?? What could it possibly need access to your phonebook?

This doesn’t just apply to flashlight apps, but to ANY app you install. You should always check what permissions it wants in order to be installed. If the permissions don’t make sense, then you should not install the application.
For example, a long time ago, I installed an app that was supposed to repel mosquitoes by ultrasonic sound. That sounded a great idea for dealing with New Jersey’s state bird.   However, take a look at the permissions that it needs.
So, in order to defeat mosquitoes, the apps need to know my phone identity, take pictures, read my call log, and read my contacts as well as full network access.. WHAT??  Phone Identity?? What the hell does the app do? Check who I am to determine my tolerance for mosquitoes??   Take Pictures?? What does it do? Take pics of the flying bloodsuckers?? Oh, READ MY CONTACTS?? READ MY FREAKING CONTACTS??   Why the hell would a mosquito repeller need to know who I call and email??  Are they looking to see if the mosquitoes have a phone in order to call and say “Please leave this guy alone”. And “Read Call Logs” – Oh yeah, it wants to determine if I called any mosquitoes lately.
In other words, this is a highly suspect app.
On the other hand, the flashlight app I have installed has the following permissions

Those permissions seem normal. The prevent phone from sleeping is required to keep the light on when the phone would normally sleep. The Take pictures and Videos is needed to control the light.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Go through your phone or tablet and remove apps you no longer need by going to Settings, Applications.
  • Look at the remaining applications by opening each one under settings/applications and looking at the permissions. Evaluate the permissions listed with your need for the app and if the permissions make sense.
  • When you download apps in the future, always take a look at the permissions and evaluate the app as mentioned above.
  • When you do updates, the android device will automatically update apps whose permissions have not changed. However, there are usually manual updates required. Before you do the update, check and evaluate the permissions.
Or go back to an old style flip phone…..

RANT –  Google’s motto is “Do No Evil”.. I don’t know about you, but I consider recklessly allowing apps to gobble up your personal data falls under “doing evil”.

UPDATE Jam 2018 – The newer versions of Android include a flashlight app as part of the OS.

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