Friday, May 31, 2013

Do you check what you're agreeing to when you install Apps on mobile phones.

A handy app I installed on my iPhone is a Flashlight. The app is very simple. You open the app and then press the torch/flashlight and the screen goes white providing enough light to be handy in a dark situation.

I decided to install a similar app in my wife's Android based mobile, but then when I saw everything I was agreeing to I decided that some of the permissions the app required made no sense, and if something doesn't make sense, to me that it is a warning. For example one of the apps wanted access to the location using the GPS and another setting was the phone state and identity. If you install a number of apps and each apps requests a small amount of information, if that information is collated a lot of information can be gathered. For example if each night you used the flashlight app when you came home in effect you're letting people know where you're located and what time you come home. For a single person living alone that can be information you don't want to share with others. In fact it is a real security risk.

I decided it doesn't take much to write a simple web page app that when opened would display a white screen. To pay for the app I'd added Google advertising. I can then install the app on the Home Screen of a mobile phone and a single press and I'd have a torch/flashlight and others can also use the web app.

In terms of information provided to a third party the torch web app I created is passed the same information as would be provided if you visit any web site with Google advertising. It is out of the scope of this post, but unfortunately it may be possible for you to be personally identified (to your device) by any site depending on your past internet activities, or by the authorities. The torch app however does not request any permission.

The torch/flashlight web app can be found at

Next time you install an app on your mobile device make sure you're happy with the information you're giving away. When an app is free the developer has to make money somehow and if you knew what they were collecting and how they are using it, you may not be so quick to install a free app.

Kelvin Eldridge
Online Connections
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and the surrounding area.

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