It seems like every Android app builder out there wants permissions, no, absolutely needs permissions to access to my location, my contacts, my camera and so on. Without it there’s no way they can trust me to use their app.
I may be in left field here but I don’t believe there’s any legitimate reason that my banking app needs access to my contact list. In my bank’s case, the solution was simple. I removed the app and used the browser on my phone to pay bills and check my account. Just as fast, just as easy and they don’t have access to my contacts. I seem to be doing that to a lot of the recent apps.
Take CNET for example. I like their website and when I found out they had an app that provided the latest in technology news, it was a must have app for me. I grumbled when they added alerts with no option for turning them off but begrudgingly accepted it. Once a month my phone would go off to tell me something incredibly important, like the announcement of a new iPhone.
It was when they updated the app and demanded access to all my contact info that I decided enough was enough and removed CNET. I was overjoyed when I discovered that www.CNET.com/news took me to their news feed without asking for my contact list or my location and better yet, when I close my browser, I don’t get alerts.
The real issue isn’t my contact list or my location or even the ability to make me check my phone when Apple and Samsung announce another patent case. The issue is trust. I trust my bank with almost all the money I have in the world, hundreds and hundreds of dollars. They trust me enough to give me a line of credit so I don’t have to carry big wads of cash with me. And yet I don’t trust them to have access to my contact list. We’re even though, I don’t think they would trust me with their contact list.
There’s certainly nothing incredibly secret about my contacts. I don’t know any famous people or high ranking mobsters. All of my contacts are ordinary run of the mill people that have trusted me with their phone numbers and their email addresses. Granted, some of these people don’t care but a few of them have gone so far as to ask me not to share their information.
Thundering turtles!, I can’t give my bank permission, I’ve already promised other people that I would keep their phones and emails private. My bank has no legitimate need for that information, as evidenced by them allowing me to do all my banking through the browser.
Are they building a world database of contacts? Does a lack of politicians in my contacts list make me creditworthy? Are they collecting names to send everyone I know $50?
I trust CNET to provide technology news, sometimes biased, sometimes not, but I don’t trust them with my contact list. They have no need for it. Imagine how the people on my contact list would feel if they also got alerted about the latest Apple/Samsung court fight.
When my new calculator app tells me that it needs my location information and unfettered Internet access, it immediately sets of warning bells in my head. I paid for the app, it’s supposed to be ad free, so why do they need my location? Despite the best efforts by some of our state legislatures, the rules of math don’t change on a geographic basis.
If you own an iPad or an iPhone you’re fortunate enough to wonder what I’m whining about. In the Apple world you don’t get asked about these permissions because Apple has already decided what the limits are. Don’t feel so smug though, you still have other issues to deal with.
Like me, you probably seldom leave comments or sign up for useful mailing lists. I don’t because I have a deep seated fear that these are nothing more than tools to collect email lists for spam. I’ve had several people tell me the same about signing up on my website. You’re probably bracing yourself for a load of spam coming your way but the only reason I ask you to provide an email address is to prove you’re a person. It’s still a matter of trust. By the way, I don’t use or sell your addresses. Like my contact list, they’re safe with me.
Some of you wonder why I care, after all it’s just spam they can delete. A few of you understand why I care, targeted phishing is way too easy to fall for. No, my bank is not involved in phishing unless you count all those insurance policies they’ve selected especially for me.
I may be paranoid but they’re not going to get your contact information from me.
Footnote: You may have noticed my use of Thundering Turtles in lieu of profanity. I try very hard not to use profanity but sometimes a little bit is necessary. I’ve always liked Thundering Turtles and it seemed to fit. I’ll give special recognition to the first person that can tell me where it came from without referring to Google and no, it’s not from Batman.Opinion by pen