Thursday, September 10, 2015


Amazon asks for permission to practically everything in my phone—so no thank you

by Larry Geller

Remember how angry Kindle users were back in 2009 when Amazon reached into their devices and took back two books by George Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm? The linked New York Times article reported that Amazon had removed other books even before the Orwell incident hit the fan.

Reaching into users’ devices and snatching out books they were reading (deleting their notes in the process) showed great disrespect for their users. Just who does Amazon think they are anyway? Big Brother?

Well, check this out.

Amazon’s app store featured a “free app of the day” which was quite popular. Usually it was some kind of game, but occasionally they offered full versions of some quite good apps. I got into the habit of checking their app store (along with AppGratis and Free App of the Day) to see what might be available.

Amazon permissionsRecently their store stopped offering free apps. It turns out that they want you to download a new app, Amazon Underground, that will offer a variety of free apps—free because Amazon is compensating the authors.

This sounded good, so I started the installation. Part of the installation process on Android devices is a display of the permissions the app will require. You then have a choice—agree to it all, or don’t install.

I have only one (polite) word for the permission request that popped up—chutzpah.

This app wants everything except possibly my firstborn.

Why would it need to take pictures, read my phone status and identity, read my contacts, know my location, send text messages I might not know about, or control my flashlight??

That was the last straw. I’ll control my own flashlight, thank you.

There’s probably some semi-plausible explanation for some of this.

But knowing Amazon, I won’t grant them these over-reaching permissions to the insides of my phone. Who knows what they will do with it.

Now, we know that there is nothing “free” about Google’s searches or Gmail, for example—it’s just that they get to use your personal information instead of charging money for the services. So I can see why Amazon wants to make a grab for my contact list. Many people will not even read the permission list and just touch “Install,” salivating over the opportunity to rummage through a grab bag of free apps.

It is tempting… but watch out. Amazon doesn’t have my contact list yet, as far as I know, and so I won’t give it to them. And I’ll shine my own flashlight when I want to, so hands off it, Amazon (there’s an app for that).

Too bad, they had some good free apps. I enjoyed being introduced to some apps I didn’t know about, even if I chose not to install them.

(the fuzzy last line in the image is “uninstall shortcuts”)


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