Two-thirds of Android apps ask for ‘dangerous’ permissions

Analysis by Pixalate shows an increase in the number of apps that require users to authorize access to potentially sensitive info.
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Even as privacy concerns continue to impact the way digital and tech companies do business and build products, a rising number of apps are getting access to things that could compromise private data, according to a new report by ad fraud prevention company Pixalate.

Pixalate’s analysis, based on apps available in the Google Play Store between January and July of this year, found that 69%, or 2.34 million, apps have one or more “dangerous” permissions, defined by Google as potentially giving an app access to a user’s restricted, sensitive information.

The 30 permissions deemed as potentially dangerous, and thus require explicit permission from a user, range from using GPS to access the user’s precise location, writing to external storage, accessing a camera or microphone, reading a call log or using contact data.

These permissions include access to things that some apps require to function properly, and Pixalate acknowledged in the report that this by no means implies that the apps are using these permissions for malicious purposes. But the report also paints a picture of the increasing amount of access apps have to sensitive areas of a user’s life, and is meant to render the company’s own opinion that there may be a heightened risk to users.

The report says there’s been a 21% year-over-year rise in apps with microphone access, 13% growth in apps with camera access, 17% jump in calendar access and 19% increase in apps with access to activity recognition.

Google Play Store apps with the “write external storage” permission has increased 3% year over year, from 56% to 58% of apps. This permission gives the app the ability to read, upload or delete personal files stored on the user’s device. The access to contacts permission, which allows the app to view contacts on the device, has increased by 5% and the number of apps that can make phone calls from a device has risen 3%.

On the other hand, there has been a 6% decrease in apps with access to “read phone state,” which allows the app to see the user’s phone number, current cell network information and status of any outgoing calls.

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