Reading App Permissions Aloud Can Make You Realize How Scary They Are

Most people don't bother reading the terms and conditions when they download apps. They're boring! The downside of swiping and tapping without actually looking is that we often allow broad access without thinking, like downloading an app that wants to read all your text messages and not even knowing you did it. This video by Ivan Cash shows how unsettled people get when they realize exactly what they've been saying yes to on their phones.

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It's worth noting that a lot of these permissions seem worse than they really are. For microphone recording, that's something that apps that record video often need to get sound without asking every single time if it's okay to also use the mic. There are usually decent reasons for most of these, though not all the time. And even if there are good reasons, maybe you don't always want to make the trade-off. (It's also worth noting that this video was commissioned by Blackphone, a privacy-minded phone company, so skeeving you out about permissions is in their best interest.)

Still, the reactions here are a reminder that it's often worth it to take a closer look at the fine print before using a new app. If there are good reasons, you should find them out ahead of time. It's never good to be surprised that an app has unexpected access.

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There's an app called "Privacy Flashlight" that calls attention to this issue rather nicely.

You want an app that turns on your camera's flash LED?

Okay. It needs access to the camera. And nothing else.

Doesn't need a data connection, doesn't need to see your photo or music libraries, doesn't need your phone or owner identity, or your location*.

*Story about another flashlight app that was sued by the FTC for misleading consumers about collecting their location data.