The problem with Android permissions is too much information and not sufficient information all at once

People freaking out there over an Android app’s permissions again was overdue.

It’s a regular happening in the technology press. An app has questionable permissions and people freak out about it. Sometimes it’s warranted, but most of the time it’s because the individuals freaking out don’t understand the particular Android permission model or even haven’t taken the time to discover what reasons an app might have to need those seemingly sketchy permissions. And it’s Google’s fault. Sorry, Google, all of us love you, but this really is all yours.

There are 2 different ways to handle letting the user (that’s you and me) know what a good app needs to do or even needs to see in order to function. One way is to plainly state everything up front before that user installs it so that they know exactly what can be done and seen. In other words, the Google android way (mostly). Another way would be to carefully screen each and every app and have the user trust your own screening process and understand that the app isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. This is the Apple way. Both are good in some ways and bad in some ways.

It could Serenity and crew’s work at iMore to tackle iOS issues on this front if it needs tackling— these people more knowledgeable about them than I am — but we really need to talk about Android permissions here and why they require some attention from huge G.

I’m going to choose on our own Android Central app here because I could look through the code or even build it myself and know exactly what it does, what can do, and why. Take a look at start with what makes people panic because there is a good example right in the picture above — prevent device from sleeping .

Why in the hell does an application to read a blog need to keep your phone locked awake? I don’t blame a person at all if this is the very first thing you think. In fact , I want it to be the first thing everyone thinks because we all need to be a little skeptical when it comes to software that we install on our phones. Yet our app has no intention of keeping your mobile phone running all the time, and except if there’s a bug somewhere keep in mind that. We need that permission so that the screen doesn’t shut off while you’re reading this.

Tell us what those permissions mean and we’ll panic less.

There are two very big issues here that Google can repair. One is hard but the other is easy, Like delicious curry easy. The hard one is to continue building out the APIs until we have one that can only keep the screen on. Let background data and everything else sleep until it’s used and keep the CPU idling unless it needs to increase for something else a user does. That’s all we’re using the prevent device from sleeping permission for anyway. When Google makes that API, we’ll switch to it. Till then, we need permission to help keep your whole phone up and running even if we’re not doing something in the background.

The second plus easier thing that needs to be performed is to give more information right here. Once you decide that you’re going to give the user all the information on which permissions an application needs, you need to go one step further when you list them. What we have right now is definitely either too much information delete word enough information.

I am a nerd. I don’t actually try to hide it. Plenty of the people reading this will also be nerds. What we see now on the search engines Play when permissions are shown was written by nerds for nerds. I understand it, my fellow nerds realize it, but a normal individual who just wants to install a great new app might not. Think about this:

  • Prevent your gadget from sleeping . This particular application needs to keep your cell phone from going into a rest state. This can only happen while the app is working and shown on your display and may not be processor intense. If you have any questions you need to ask the developer utilizing the contact information at the bottom of the page.

That took me like thirty seconds to bang from my keyboard. (And twenty more to fix the typos because I think I can kind really fast without looking at my keyboard but I really can’t. ) It’s not the greatest explanation of what this particular permission might mean, but it’s a metric shitload much better that what we have now. The individuals at Google are method smarter about Android than I am (but I challenge any and all comers to test our knowledge on Dunmer lore) and could do this even better. If they did, it would help people who else actually bother to read the permissions when they see Tweets melting about an application needing GPS data mainly because it’s a free ad-driven application that needs GPS to show a person those “relevant” Target advertisements when you’re in the Target car parking lot.

The Android permission model needs to be refined and explained. And not by nerds.

This isn’t a new problem. Considering that Android became popular people have noticed too much information about needed permissions without enough information about all those permissions and what they mean. Then they (rightfully) freak out about this. I enjoy those freakouts. I actually get to sit back and watch people actually care about mobile security and their precious private data for a day or even two. But the app developers surely aren’t very happy in order to happens to them, and they are the main reason Android is as popular since it is.

So how ’bout it Search engines? Can you make a change to provide us everything we need to understand when we actually look at an app’s permissions without going to the Android Developer site and reading a bunch of documentation about them? We’ll love you a lot more.

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