Six out of every ten Android owners have decided not to download an app after learning how much of their personal information would be required to use that app, and 43 percent said they deleted an app to stop it from collecting personal information, according to results of a poll published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for Internet, Science and Technology.
The study showed the average Android app requests permission to access five of a phone’s components.
The results showed that Android users are growing wary of all the queries for information and other permissions that apps must make to perform their advertised functionality. It also shows that the permissions being sought vary widely, putting a big burden on users to decode the agenda and whether its worth the privacy trade-off.
“In spite of users’ concerns about the privacy implications of apps permissions, it is a simple fact that permissions are required for even the most basic apps to function,” researchers Michelle Atkinson and Kenneth Olmstead wrote Tuesday. “Consider, for instance, a ‘flashlight’ app that turns on the camera flash permanently as opposed to ‘flashing’ like it would when taking a picture, so that it can be used as a flashlight. Even an app this basic would require the ‘control flashlight’ permission in order to function as advertised.”
Among the key findings:
- Nine-in-ten users who downloaded apps from the Google Play Store said its “very” or “somewhat” important to have clear information about how an app will use their data.
- The 1,041,336 Android apps surveyed seek 235 permissions to access hardware (165) or a user’s information (70), ranging from GPS information to contact information. The most common permission was a request to access Internet connectivity.
- Roughly 82 percent of apps available in the Google Play Store are free. Free apps asked for an average of two more permissions than paid apps.
The findings were published one day after the Electronic Frontier Foundation blamed the Android permission system for enabling hackers to take partial, remote control of a user’s phone without their knowledge.