How to stop Android apps from accessing your sensitive private data (hint: revoke permissions)

How to stop Android apps from accessing your sensitive private data (hint: revoke permissions)
Is your Government spying on you? As the NSA eavesdropping scandal is only snowballing instead of dying down, reports that apps like Facebook are accessing your contacts and that Skype could be accessing your camera every 3 hours or so (even when it's shut down), might strike a sore nerve with many.

Thankfully, Google’s Android operating system allows you to actually control what each and every app accesses. To do so, you don’t need root and any hackery - it all happens via a simple app that is free to download on Google Play.

One such app is called AppOps and it works on most devices we tested (except for a select few running on the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat, but a fix might come soon).

AppOps tracks the behavior of all your apps, so you can actually see what component of the Android system they are accessing and how often. Don’t want Facebook or Viber to access your location? Just disable the location permissions from within AppOps. Don’t want a flashlight app to get your location data? Disable that permission from AppOps (or don’t download it in the first place).

It’s something for Android users to play with, and even if you don’t have any abusive apps (contrary to popular belief, Google Play is a safe place, it’s some third-party app stores that are not), it will help you better understand the Android mobile platform. You can get it at the link right below, and follow our instructions to learn how to revoke app permissions and keep your private data to yourself.


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37 Comments

37. miztrniceguy

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 13, 2014

I have Advanced Permissions Manager to disable many permissions. The one I don't see anoption for is "allow app to post for you" which so many apps have but do not need. Why would I want to allow so many apps to post for me? and post where? The don't say.

35. puckhead

Posts: 81; Member since: Jan 13, 2013

app doesnt show up in my google play store on my phone, but does on my Nexus7 weird

18. linaresx

Posts: 101; Member since: Jun 13, 2013

One app to rule them all. Thank you Mother Google for providing a non-hacker tracker to track the hacker trackers.

17. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

Does this also break apps if important permissions are disabled?

24. tedkord

Posts: 17529; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It's possible. If you disallow location data for a nav app, the app isn't going to be worth much.

27. RandomUsername

Posts: 808; Member since: Oct 29, 2013

I use the App Settings Xposed module and if I disable some Permissions, certain apps crash when I open them. I still have 4.1 so App Ops doesn't work for me :(

16. HildyJ

Posts: 346; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

As people have pointed out, using this can break apps in ways that they don't expect to be broken and never developed error handling code for. For this reason, Google hid it in Developer Options up to 4.4.1. In 4.4.2 they removed the code but left the framework. Rooted users and those on custom ROMs can reinstall it but, otherwise, 4.4.2 users are out of luck. If you don't like the permissions, don't install the app.

14. Aplusk

Posts: 120; Member since: Nov 10, 2013

currently this app version is only available for android 4.3 & 4.4

3. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Why do the apps from a couple of three letter agencies, from the FCC and the TSA, need access to your accounts? Could they be Trojan horses for other three letter agencies? It's better to pay attention to app permissions and shy away from those which request too many for no good reason.

22. Kaiser2007

Posts: 173; Member since: Nov 16, 2013

FBI, CIA and NSA.

2. Teja171 unregistered

I donno why this feature was removed in android 4.4 kitkat ? Then why was it introduced in android 4.3 ?

11. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

Because people found out about it and Google didn't want people using it. It isn't for the user yet because it has the side effect of breaking things when you use it.

25. stealthd unregistered

They said it was because it didn't work, or broke some app functionality. If they didn't want people to use it they'd just, you know, not put it in.

1. fireblade

Posts: 717; Member since: Dec 27, 2013

That's what I like from Android. In android, you are the boss so you can do whatever you want. Unlike other OS, your authority is limited. You can't do anything if some apps steal your data or do harm to your phone. And you are bound to manufacturer's rule.

4. Mxyzptlk unregistered

That's funny because I recall android being pretty limited. Bloatware that can't be removed, locked bootloader, updates that are delayed, fragmentation, and don't even get me started on rogue apps. If you're going to take potshots at apple, remember all of androids shortcomings.

5. casualavi

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

A big LOL to you!! Shortcomings of Android : Bloatware (root it, remove it), bootloader(there are again methods to it as long as you know how to Google), delayed updates(there are always custom ROMs or Stock Android options), rogue apps(Well, Good + Bad Developers are everywhere)!!

8. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Rooting - not everyone is tech savy enough to root and not everyone is aware of rooting. Don't assume. Bootloader - lol again not everyone's tech savy enough to do that. Might do more harm than good and turn that new phone into a brick. Custom ROMs - see above Checkmate

12. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

Unlocking a bootloader on any nexus device is a simple 3 step procedure, but it resets the tablet upon doing it. Vs any apple device where you will never ever be able to unlock it.

29. androtaku

Posts: 246; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

search jailbreak

20. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

You are playing chess with yourself as opponent.

26. androtaku

Posts: 246; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

fandroids tends to think the universe population consist of undead geek who root and customized phone everyday, oh yea try teach that to a productive traders from wall street about custom rom they can't apprehend that the best way to enjoy smartphone is to have both,not pick sides and condemn the other

32. Nexus_bear

Posts: 32; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

Its called nexus. Checkmate.

33. casualavi

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

@Mxy Nobody is telling you to root your Android.. You are happy enough with your iOS.. Android power users don't worry about those silly bricking and warranty voiding stuffs.. Have a good day, mate!

36. sultangris

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 25, 2014

It's really quite simple and we call people that are too dumb to figure it out Apple users, haha!

38. peter.steier

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 11, 2016

An anroid phone without root is a brick.

6. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Wrong, again, mxy - but no one should be surprised, as you are just an APPLE loving troll - fact is when the Captivate first came out, I rooted it and was able to remove unwanted apps - unlock bootloader - speaking of fragmentation - my kids' ipod 4th generation is no longer able to play a lot of the apps he would like to - oops....

9. Mxyzptlk unregistered

An apple loving troll huh? Lol I see your insults are about as original as Samsung. I'm pretty sure your lying about the 4th gen ipod since my friend has one and is able to download apps just fine.

7. designerfx

Posts: 76; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

Please troll less. It's not even worth addressing your fud.

21. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

He's upset Apple couldn't even do 50,000 a day (even that could be doubtful if there are cancellations) with China's bigggest operator ... so let him troll a bit

10. tedkord

Posts: 17529; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The iPhone bootloader is unlocked? (Hint: no, it's not) You can remove Safari? (No. You can't even choose a different browser to open URLs.) BTW, it's possible to disable preinstalled apps on Android. How did you enjoy Siri on the iPhone 4? How is that 64bit working on the iPhone 5? (That's also fragmentation)

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