What are app permissions?
When a user installs an app or receives an update from Google’s Play Store, for instance, they get a pop-up listing all the permissions it requires. Permissions mostly require access to text messages, phone call details, media files, auto-fill up, contact details, camera, location, microphone, internet/wifi access, data from other apps, linked account details, access to phone settings etc. Essentially, you allow a third party to view and analyze and save your data.
Apps need access to specified content on the device that you are using to fulfill their functionality, for example, a picture-editing app will require access to your phone camera and media files to be able to edit pictures saved in the phone, laptop or tablet to take a new picture that it can edit.
How is the permitted data used?
Whenever you grant such permissions to any app, the data gets stored in the database of the app. For ios users, the data gets stored in icloud storage, while for Android users it gets stored in the sqlite database.
This shared data is much more than the data user actually intended to share. If the user gives permission to access images, the location and date of the image is also shared with the third party. This information is stored for boosting marketing and sales of the company. For example apps like Swiggy, Zomato, Vegan Heat, UberEats use user data to detect the areas with heavy customer segment and thus end up having tie-ups with food hubs of that particular area followed by suggesting users with nearby food areas giving discounts which basically is delivery cost being cut due to the area lying around your residence.
Likewise, taxi providers receive permissions to access location, thus helping drivers pick up customers around them instead of travelling to far to pick up a customer. This leveraging of data reduces wait time for users and benefits drivers.
The data from across verticals is stored in databases which form the backbone of AI algorithms, which magically suggest similar locations \you went to, food you ordered, clothes you bought, etc. This behavioural pattern of a user not only serves as research for subjects like behavioural economics and human psychology, but also makes you vulnerable in terms of your likes and dislikes being saved as a log with a third party.
Section 2 – Data monetization and Security
To make money out of apps that we use on our devices, most companies often integrate third-party libraries that allow these external entities to push ads and other content on their apps. Data is an asset and anyone who is running a business is also in the proprietorship of any information regarding the business itself. This includes information about the products/services offered by the company, business plans, and financial plans.
Attackers can even leverage poorly written code or third-party libraries to gain access to a user’s device or data, says Boland, chief technology officer, Asia-Pacific, at cybersecurity firm FireEye.
There is a wide range of complexities involved in making the business omnipresent and ensuring that the experience delivered on the needs of customers and partners alike, so companies use high-level tools to hustle-up the information provided by users. Lousy coders or data aggregators are not the only ones to blame.
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In the 21st century, data has become one of the most prized resources in the hands of businesses and governments alike. With threats like ‘WannaCry Ransomware’ doing the rounds and even IT giants like Facebook facing allegations of unfair practices, the discourse on the security of data has erupted this year – and rightly so!
One doesn’t need to be at the helm of a gigantic IT company to worry about data security. Data is omnipresent now, especially with mobile connectivity penetrating deeper into our lives every day.
Hence, it is necessary for users to read all the permissions carefully before they install or use an app due to security reasons. If the terms and conditions are read carefully, the user will grant permissions in full cognizance. In fact, if they do not want to give any access right they must be able to deny it. However, it is also important to emphasize app privacy to assure users that their information is absolutely safe and gain their confidence.