Whether you like it or not, mobile apps have changed the world. They're the main reason why smartphones are what they are now - portable computer swiss army knives that can seemingly do anything!
Now, check the number of apps you have installed on your phone. Do you have 10? 20? 50? Now, for all these apps to function, they need a certain level of access to your phone's system. These are what are called permissions.
If you have tons of apps installed on your phone, imagine all the work needed to check each app's permissions individually!
Permissions allow apps to do what they're designed to do. For example, maps and navigation apps will definitely require access to your location, the same way a camera and photo editing app will need permission to use your phone's camera and photo library. Fitness apps will oftentimes need access to your health tracking data, and so on and so forth.
Before you install apps, you can always check the permissions they will require on their Google Play or Apple App Store app page. Android phones will also give you a rundown of the permission requests upon installation of an app. iOS apps will typically show you a permission access pop-up upon using a feature that requires specific access to your gadget.
Unfortunately, sometimes apps ask for more information than they really need. That information can then be sent to companies who might use it for advertising. Or it might just sit on their server waiting for a data breach to put it in hackers' hands.
This is why checking for your app permissions regularly is good practice. Not only will it give you more privacy control and stop apps from potentially from spying and abusing your trust, it can also weed out apps that are constantly running in the background, which can, in turn, improve your gadget's battery life.
Fortunately, checking app permissions is not that hard. Here's how you control your apps' permissions, both in Android and iOS.
To check your apps' permissions on Android, go to Settings >> Apps >> Select the app you want to check >> then tap Permissions. Here you'll see all the permissions that the app has (Camera, Contacts, Location, Microphone, Storage, etc.). To revoke a permission, just toggle its switch to off.
If you want a more general view of your phone's permissions and all the apps that have them, go to Settings >> Apps >> then click on the gear on the upper left side to access the "Configure apps" screen.
From here, tap "App permissions" to see a list of all the permissions in your phone (Body Sensors, Calendar, Phone, SMS, Microphone, etc.) and the number of apps that have them. To edit the apps, just click on a permission then toggle an app to off.
Before you start turning off your app permissions, keep in mind that some apps do require specific permissions to function properly.
For example, a sound recording app will definitely need microphone access and ridesharing apps like Uber require your location. When in doubt, you can always check an app's website or Google Play page to see why it needs specific permissions.
iOS users can check app permissions by opening the Settings app >> Privacy. Here you'll see all the app permissions that your iPhone or iPad has (Location Services, Contacts, Calendars, Camera, Microphone, Health, Motion & Fitness, etc.)
Similar to Android, you can tap on a specific permission then see all the apps that are requesting it. You can then toggle each app to on or off to allow or deny access to that permission.
If you notice, Location Services on iOS has a general switch you can toggle off to deny all of your apps' access to your location instantly. In the same section, you can also review each app's location data access by tapping on it. Depending on the app, you can set it to Never, While Using the App or Never.
Another permission you will want to check on iOS is Background App Refresh. You can access this by opening Settings >> General >> then tap Background App Refresh.
As with Location Services, this permission also has a general switch you can toggle off to prevent all of your apps from refreshing in the background. You can also toggle each app individually. While background app refreshes are useful for fitness apps or email services, turning it off can save battery life.
As usual, if you want to check why a particular iOS app is asking for specific permissions, you can check its website or Apple App Store page.
Check your in-app settings
Aside from your general phone permissions, some apps also have their own privacy settings you may want to check. For example, Facebook has its own third-party apps that may ask for access to your Facebook information or the Twitter app that has settings to limit what it collects about your Twitter usage and how much of this data is shared with advertisers.
Remember, reviewing your smartphone app permissions regularly will not only protect your privacy, it can enhance your phone's battery life too. Although your must-have apps may need camera or location data to function properly, it's recommended that you run apps with as limited permissions as possible.