Earlier today, the FTC announced the terms of its settlement with the free torch app “Brightest Flashlight”, which had surreptitiously collected real-time location data of its users and sold to advertisers. Although Android doesn’t allow you to modify the permissions that an installed app has, Google does display the permissions that an app is requesting before you install the app. A privacy breach like the “Brightest Flashlight” incident can easily be avoided by paying attention to the permissions that an app requests. For example, there is no valid reason for a torch app to access your location. If you find that an app requests more permissions than justifiable, it might be best to simply avoid it and pick a less nosy alternative.
The trouble is that if you have been using Android for a while, you must have already installed dozens of apps. Manually reviewing their permissions is a cumbersome process that very few users will be willing to undertake. This is where a new app called TruePlex can help.
TruePlex is a new app which does one simply thing. Once installed, it cross-references the apps installed on your phone with its database, and generates a report with a rating (lower is better) for each identified app. The rating is based on the amount of access the app has to private data. A higher rating doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something is wrong, but it does indicate that you should take a closer look at the permissions the app is requesting. Tapping on any of the app icons in the report opens up a new page which lists all the permission an app has. While it makes sense that your SMS app will have access to your messages and contacts, be wary if a random game requests the same permission.
TruePlex looks and feels like something hacked together over a weekend. The app basically has a single screen, and all it does is prepare a report of the permissions that apps installed on your device have. Quite appropriately, TruePlex itself doesn’t request any special permission. This will perhaps instantly make it As soon as you hit the “Let’s Go” button, you are taken to your web browser, where your report is displayed. You also have the option of creating an account on the TruePlex website. This will allow you to compare you device score with other users.
To be fair, the app is very basic, the report is ugly, the website is buggy, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. The database is still small, and not all of your apps are rated. I’m sure that if it gains popularity, we’re going to see a lot more polished app in the coming weeks. I’d definitely want to see it automatically figuring out what permissions my installed apps have, and generating a report even if the app isn’t in the TruePlex database. Nevertheless, the app is already quite useful and worth a download. The app is essentially similar to BitDefender’s Clueful app. However, TruePlex is a lot more lightweight, and requires no permissions for itself. On the flip side, the report lacks the succinct one line summary that Clueful provides.