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Smart phones are a great tool for both personal life and business. The ability to carry around your calendar, access emails, create pdfs for filing, save to and retrieve from cloud sourced archives like dropbox – these are all fantastic features that make life easier and add to productivity.
There are also plenty of useful personal tools like a spirit level, flash light, calculators, plus any number of games if that sort of thing interests you. It’s all good stuff, and a lot of it can be downloaded for free.
I have always found having a torch or flash light app on my phone to be a pretty useful thing. So having recently changed to an Android phone I decided to download a torch app. I found about 2000 of them available in google store, chose one that had been downloaded by about 3 million people before me with great reviews (how can than many people be wrong) and hit install.
Now the fun begins. Because at this point you get a message that outlines all the permissions that you would be giving this app by consenting to download it. Well, it’s a flash light app so it would need to have use of my camera for the purpose of using my flash, and perhaps the internet for notification of updates. So I was appalled at what permissions were actually built into this ‘free’ app (and I searched though about 20 others and they all have frightening similarities).
If I had gone ahead with it, this little torch would have had complete access to my contacts, my phone and the ability to make calls without my consent, all network drives attached to the phone, my data connection, the ability to take pictures and video without my consent, my emails, my location and the ability to modify/delete content on USB storage. WHAT THE? All I wanted was a torch.
It raises some interesting questions about what ‘free’ might actually cost you. Now this app had been used by many, many people who clearly hadn’t suddenly found their lives
taken over by their flash light. But perhaps that’s only because the time isn’t right yet. The information about me they are being granted access to is in no way relevant or commensurate to the purpose of the app. So the question has to be, why they are asking for it.
Sad to say, I haven’t found a torch app that is satisfied with its station in life. So I continue to stumble around in the dark looking for my keys or stubbing my toes on the door jamb when all I wanted was a glass of water when everyone is asleep. But it’s a small price to pay compared to the possible costs of using these apps.
Don’t gloss over the permissions you are giving, because you’re
in a hurry to gain the utility offered by your smart phone. If you do, you may
just find out the price of free.