I have a beef–a tofu, to be inclusive–with apps in general. Let’s say that about 90% of the time I find an app I want to put on my phone (Android OS), I’m so surprised by what downloading the app will allow a company to do, that I end up with no new app. (Side note: the whole debacle with Carrier IQ in 2011 made me laugh a bit, since I can’t tell the difference between what that company was doing and what users agree to most times (I estimate) when they download many apps.)
What can downloading an app let strangers do? Check out some of the top sellers in the Android Market to see. Anything from viewing your phone’s private information and your Email addresses associated with a phone; adjusting device storage content; taking pictures with your phone; seeing who you’re on the phone with; and on.
The most surprising recently-attempted download for me has been with the IndieBound Reader™ app. IndieBound is this lovely independent bookstore umbrella organization. It helps you find local bookstores. It promotes authors and does all that nice local, indie stuff I love. So I had this assumption that it would be all warm and fuzzy all around. But reading the permissions I’d be giving to IndieBound made me a little queasy. The one that puzzled me the most was the one where the organization would be able to read the serial number of my phone and know if and when I was on a phone call and with whom I was speaking. An app that allows me to read books and support my local bookstore of choice does not need to know my private information like that.
So, why do apps ask for all this stuff? I’m guessing because they can. People keep downloading apps without pause, it seems. At least 500+ people have so far for the IndieBound Reader. More information on customers might be leading to more marketing, but I imagine it’s more because: why not ask people to relinquish their privacy if you can and people most likely will? What are your thoughts?