How can I deny an android app permissions it claims to require?
February 19, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Android apps seem to grab permissions that I have no desire to give them. My understanding is that the permissions per app are all bundled together: it's all or nothing. At least officially. Is there another way? Also, is there a privacy watchdog site that will help me find apps that actually respect my privacy and support/purchase them over those that do not?

For example, I need to install Skype. Like, for work need to. To pay the bills and eat need to. The only problem is that it asks for everything under the sun. I don't want it to have access to most of the things it wants to access.

At least in 2011, Skype gave all its information to any other app that wanted it on the phone. I'm sure it's not the only one.

Almost every app on my phone grabs permissions like they're going out of style, and it drives me crazy. I would love to find even an unoficial, poorly supported, sporadically developed, unstable method of blocking specific kinds of access to installed apps or spoofing the information given to apps. Is there such a thing?
posted by jsturgill to Technology (4 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You can root your phone and install something like LBE Privacy Guard which has a "Permission Manager". If you search the web for Android permission management you will come up with some other options.
posted by ODiV at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best way to do this is to use PDroid. PDroid enables fine-grained permissions control for Android. Unfortunately, this requires a custom rom. Unlike iOS, you can install custom roms onto your android device. However, this is not a trivial thing to do. You can explore custom roms for your device on xda developers and install one that has PDroid (or even patch PDroid in yourself). But try the app Odiv recommended first, it may solve your problems as well. PDroid is a lower-level control system, which is why it requires kernel level access.
posted by demiurge at 8:59 AM on February 19, 2013

As a workaround, Android 4.2 tablets like the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 have multi-user capabilities so you could set up a second user for just Skype and not sync anything else into that user.

But as others have mentioned, this isn't a feature in stock Android but it is something third-party ROMs a re working on. For now stock android is basically fine-grained disclosure but not fine-grained control.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on February 19, 2013

Xposed is another method of rescinding app's access to various permissions. PDroid development has been split, and there doesn't seem to be a simple, easy way to install it on Android 4+. Root access is necessary to install the Xposed framework that Xposed runs on, but it also doesn't require flashing new firmware or anything of that sort. Xposed also offers a much finer grained access to permissions and lists exactly what it is that a given app is requiring access to. Rather than simply blocking all access to "contacts", you can pick and choose which bits of contacts an app can access.
posted by Solomon at 3:36 AM on February 16, 2014

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