Why Do Most Android Apps Have Intrusive Data Access Requirements?
By on June 23rd, 2010

It has been just around a month since I bought an HTC Legend as my first Android phone and I must say that I was pretty satisfied with it. Though a few days ago, it went into occasional lags and often,  there was a freeze times of around two seconds in bringing up the menu. I had installed so many apps (63 of them) that I preferred doing a factory reset over a app quality check.

After that was done and when I started installing back apps, I was taken aback by how much of data demands Android apps have. Being a newbie, I did not give much notice to this fact earlier. What was even more surprising,was that these apps were available for download right from the Market!

Let us take a small example. I search the Android market for an app on “Guitar Chords” and this is a list I come up with.

android-market-search

Now, we can see the app named g-tar [free guitar, hooray]. This is a guitar chord app and it requires access to my phone calls to read the phone state. I probed further into what kind of an access that was? As a result,  I saw that it just makes sure I am not on a call when it plays a tune.

guitar-android-app

Not much to worry about. Is it? My point here is that the behavior of these apps can put our personal data at risk. The open nature of the Android Market can be abused to turn Android Phones into remotely controlled bots.

Here is a quick check list to keep us safe from such situations.

  • Check for comments on the app before installing it. If comments say something is wrong with the app, something definitely is. Also, if the first few comments are all positive, look up more comments to double check. Try and identify good commentators.
  • Check the system requirements and usage guide. How well the usage guide is written goes a long way into telling how responsible the developer is for his creation.
  • Check if the name of that app turns up on “Best Android App” and “Top Android App” lists. If yes, skip the next few steps and use it. If not, do not panic. Go through the next steps.
  • Check for any known issues in the description. Check for conflicts with the system or with other apps. (This can be another annoyance.)
  • Check the data access it requires. It there is anything out of the way, use your Google Fu to do a background check.

That is the best we can do to keep our Android phones clean until Google comes up with some method of keeping the Android market clean.

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Author: Chinmoy Kanjilal Google Profile for Chinmoy Kanjilal
Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. He rants occasionally at Techarraz.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.

Chinmoy Kanjilal has written and can be contacted at chinmoy@techie-buzz.com.
 
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