How to (or can I) limit permissions for Android apps?
November 11, 2012 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Android and intrusive permissions - can I find a limited-permission SMS blocker, or should I just root my phone?

I just bought my first smartphone, a Galaxy S II running Android 4.0.4. It's very pretty and shiny - but most of the apps I've looked at want permission to dial my phone, wake it from sleeping, send texts without asking me first, etc. I'm not doing much with the phone because of this, which I'm okay with, but I do get a few spam texts that I'd like to block.

So I have two questions: 1) is there an SMS blocker that doesn't require these permissions, or at least can't make calls? and 2) could I gain more control over permissions for apps if I rooted the phone?

Any advice is appreciated, thanks!
posted by Angharad to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
2) Yes. There are some apps that will allow you to control permissions for other apps if you have root, or you can install a custom ROM (e.g. CyanogenMod, which is what I use) which has permission management features.
posted by anaelith at 3:22 PM on November 11, 2012

Best answer: You can get apps that allow you to block certain permissions, but yes they require the phone to be rooted. More importantly the apps will likely just crash when they get blocked, since when you develop for Android, once you declare that you will need a permission there shouldn't be any need to check for it.

You may be over-thinking this a little. The supposed malware problem on Android is completely overblown. All the apps that anti-virus vendors are talking about in trying to drum up business are being found on Chinese app stores, not the official app market. Google is pretty vigilant about getting dodgy stuff out of the market, and provided you stick to widely used, highly reviewed apps you'll be fine.

For example, taking a look at some SMS blockers, most of them also block calls, to block a call without user interaction on Android requires your app to have the make calls permission. Take a look at this app, which I have absolutely no experience with. Over a million installs with an average rating of 4.4. It requires a bunch of telephony permissions, but to monitor phonecalls and SMSs you kind of need those permissions. If it was going around making calls there would have been complaints and it would have been pulled from the market ages ago.
posted by markr at 3:25 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

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