Which Android Apps Invade Your Privacy The Most

Those smart guys at Carnegie Mellon University have been taking a real close look at a whole stack of Android apps and checking out their privacy-related behaviours.

Smartphones contain a ton of personal info: emails, contact lists, location, call logs, photos, social networks, etc and all apps access this data to a greater or lesser degree.

PrivacyGrade Rates Apps

Using their own privacy ‘model’ the CMU team have come up with a grading system which measures the gap between people’s expectations of an app’s behaviour and the app’s actual behaviour.

So, for example, you’d expect Google Maps to access your location data, right? But why the heck are games like Fruit Ninja using it?

Having first ascertained what data each app requires access to, the team then did a series of surveys to determine people’s expectations of what data an app should have access to. Subjective maybe but it does gives as good an indication as you can probably get.

Check out the PrivacyGrade website. It makes interesting reading…

At the moment they have only looked at free apps and it is probably true that paid apps will be far more privacy concious.

Also remember, that if you are really concerned about a particular app there isn’t a great deal you can do other than delete it or find a replacement. But we think it’s a great idea to have this kind of privacy scrutiny out there so we welcome the CMU team’s efforts.

Of course there are a few apps out there already which will check ALL your apps and notify you which permissions they require. Apps like Snoopwall’s Privacy App and MyPermissions’ Online Privacy Shield spring to mind.

But these apps really only tell you which permissions your apps require and then ask you to trust (or not) the app or uninstall it. Neither allow you to restrict permissions on a per-app basis.

Google themselves introduced App Ops in Android 4.3 which did allow you to do this but they kept it hidden and now seem to be backing away from this functionality (it’s even harder to get at in later releases).

Updated: February 24, 2015 by PrivacyPulp


  1. Gord Reply

    Stay clear of Snoopwall it could be a scam. Takes over as a device administrator and requires permissions to everything. Not clear how much it actually costs and very hard to uninstall. Check out this forum debate before you go near it.

    1. PrivacyPulp Reply

      Hi Gord, thanks for the comment. We were aware of the earlier issues with Snoopwall but would advise that the latest free version has been fixed up a bit. It no longer requires any special permissions, does not take over as a device administrator and is simple to uninstall. You don’t have to go through any special procedures just uninstall like any other app. The pricing is still obscure but bottom line, this apps really only tell you which permissions your apps require and then ask you to trust (or not) the app or uninstall it, so you could argue what’s the point.

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