Permissions to destroy your phone?

Let’s face it: Users aren’t always the best at weighing risks. And that’s especially true when it comes to selecting the mobile apps they download onto their phones. 

Most apps provide some degree of value to the user – either in efficiency boosts, business use, or, in many cases, fun. But the permissions these apps request in order to run on a smartphone or tablet are often way out of whack with what they actually need.

Give users the option to get that app or err on the side of caution and nine out of ten times, they’re going to be flinging birds at pigs rather than saying “No thanks.”

Google gave … then took away

That’s why it was so disappointing when Google removed the App Ops feature in its latest Android release. This feature let users grant selective permissions to the apps installed on their phones – so for instance they could allow it to access files, but deny it permission to look at their contacts or post to social media on their behalf.

There are some workarounds to get the feature back, but they’re not supported by Google. That could make them risky choices.

So for the time being, you’re left with an old challenge: Getting users to pay more attention to their apps.

App permissions rules

With over a million apps out there, trying to ban or approve without serious technical assistance could be difficult. A better bet? Work on getting users to focus on app permissions for their mobile devices.

In your BYOD policy, you may want to have a clause on which types of permissions are acceptable and which shouldn’t be allowed. For instance, you might want to ban (or at least approve on a case-by-case basis) apps that ask for:

  • GPS access
  • contacts lists
  • system tools, and
  • other permissions out of line with what the app is intended to do.

Case in point, the FCC recently came down hard on a popular free flashlight app that would track users’ locations and sell that data to advertisers.

Remind users: There are a lot of lowdown people out there in all walks of life … and that includes ones who make programs that seem otherwise helpful.

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