Android gives you the ability to deny your sensitive data to apps


Wasn’t this just sidelined in 4.4.2?


App Ops doesn’t launch on my Nexus 5 with kitkat 4.4.2. Is that what you mean?

Anyone have a working alternative?

Was working great. Now perhaps Google has had a change of heart. 4.4.2 broke it on my nexus 4. Seems others are having trouble as well. Developers are aware of it and are working on a fix. Hope it goes well as this was a great thing. Not looking forward to rooting and installing another ROM like Cyanogen but the app permissions are getting ridiculous and if I can’t get this kind of control I will likely return to iOS.

In the days when Android didn’t allow tethering

This was only carrier-specific phones. If you bought an unlocked device it could do tethering. My stock Samsung Galaxy S could do tethering in Australia (cause our carriers aren’t complete freaking jerks).

Blocking specific app permissions has been possible for a fair while now, but has always (AFAIK) required root. In any case you should root your phone if the path is easy because (I guarantee) at some point you’ll want to use an app that requires root access. The app I’ve always heard recommended for blocking permissions is Permissions Denied

I will likely return to iOS

How would that change anything? Isn’t root impossibly easy on the Nexus 4?

Edit: Yes, Yes it is:

Edit 2: The developer says on the Play Store description of App Ops that a working fix for 4.4.2 is coming but in the meantime (if you have root) you can run App Ops X that supposedly works fine.

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The problem with this approach is the burden is on the user to protect the data. In a perfect world where everybody is informed, that might be OK. IOS’s solution with these settings built into the OS is much better.

On iOS you install and app, and a dialog box pops up to ask a user if it is OK if the App uses various services like location data. You then can manually go into settings and configure the settings for each individual app. The fact that Google doesn’t build this into the OS should be telling.

Perhaps the differences have to do with Apple and Google’s different methodologies for making money. Apple largely is a hardware manufacturer where the purchaser of the hardware is the customer, and with Android advertisers are Google’s primary customer.

It’s actually relatively easy and painless these days.

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Plus you don’t need a ROM at all - just root access. It’s not the OS that’s stopping you it’s the permissions to access system stuff that are restricted unless rooted.

  1. Even if it’s baked into the OS you still need to know it exists. As you said you have to go in manually to change it.

The fact that Google doesn’t build this into the OS should be telling.

  1. This is a fair point, but also potentially related to the fact that some apps will force close if they don’t get access to what they want, so it is also a privacy vs usability tradeoff. Should the fact that Google sells only unlocked, easily-rootable devices through the play store be an indication that they don’t give an F what you do, especially since ios7 is still missing a jailbreak?

Apple largely is a hardware manufacturer where the purchaser of the hardware is the customer, and with Android advertisers are Google’s primary customer.

  1. Not sure this is quite right, considering Apple makes a buttload of cash through the itunes store (content not hardware) and ad revenues from ios users are well above revenues from android users.

I think that’s right, but not the whole story: Android has also always labored under competitive pressure from its free/open forks, like Cyanogenmod.

Google doesn’t care about anything other than advertising revenue from Android. That’s the money stream. I very much doubt Cyanogenmod had anything to do with this. If Google cared about competing with forks, why would security be the first thing they touched? Because they’re in the business of selling your buying habits, it’s actually not in their interest.

And, what competitive pressure? What forks other than Cyanogenmod has anyone even heard of? And no one’s heard of Cyanogenmod outside of geek circles. Supposedly, Cyanogenmod has more than 8 million users. That seems high, like maybe the total number of installs over lifetime, which is not the same thing as active users. Has that number been verified anywhere by an neutral party? I’m not able to find any marketshare stats outside of quotes by interested stakeholders. (On that note, it’s unfortunate that sites like The Verge hire writers instead of journalists.)

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I am just now exploring this feature but another app besides the one Cory mentioned is called ‘App Ops Starter’. It seems like a very nice program.

Google doesn’t care about anything other than advertising revenue from Android and making cool things to play with.

FTFY. Googlers are geeks who like technology for technology’s sake. They are also sensible enough to understand where most of their revenue is from.

I don’t and have never run cyanogenmod, primarily because the Android phones I’ve owned are newish and updatable/moddable without hacks like cyangenmod. That being said I’d honestly estimate that number is a measure of active users. The community is HUGE. The site you linked to also includes this: But that counts only users who have elected to share data with Cyanogen, he says, estimating that the true number is two to three times that amount. which I feel there’s no reason to doubt considering it’s open source, free and run by geeks. No one would be able to measure it, except cyanogenmod themselves so you’re not going to find other figures.

Because they’re in the business of selling your buying habits

Unless you know something I don’t know this is entirely untrue. They’re in the business of utilising your buying habits for their own financial gain, not on-selling it to others. They’ve invested all this cash in building what they are… why would they then offer that to anyone for a fee, considering it is that inside knowledge that they leverage to be the biggest advertising network on the internet (by a massive margin)?

[Mods, can we turn this “similar body” warning off for edits plz? Of course it’s similar, I was correcting a typo!]

So, Android users have to install a separate app and manually configure it to restrict apps from accessing data?

There is also the xposed installer it has a module called Xprivacy that does this i believe for all android devices.

Looks useful. Sorry Dropbox, I don’t want to give you permission to take photos.
Now if Samsung would just pull their fingers out and make a 4.3 upgrade available for the S3…

So hold on…please clarify…

What this is is Android has built support for denying your data to be used by third party apps…by using third party apps to control these settings? Instead of having this built into the OS as a setting or preference? These aren’t already default settings that you have to approve but have to be added after you have access to the Android store to get an app to do this? And you’d have to know this exists as an Android user…so unless you are up to date on Android news…you might not even know this exists?

This is still a potential privacy nightmare so I’m not sure how you spin this into, “It just got a whole lot better.” It still sounds pretty bad.

Strangely enough, it is built in as settings, but it’s all hidden. The app just allows you to get into these permission settings that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The interface of messing with the permissions is the OS, rather than a third party app interface.

The whole smartphone ecosystem is a potential privacy nightmare. Even though apps show you the permissions they want when you install them, I imagine for most people the list gets only a little more attention than the endless license agreements everyone accepts by default. For now, it does require that people interest themselves in it so they can take some control.

No, not great, but an improvement. Google should make these available like the developer options. Not immediately accessible (because you can break some apps) but very easy to make them so.

UPDATE: Google pulled it, right after everyone started praising it. Here’s the EFF story:
And, if you search for “App Ops” in the Google Play Store, you’ll get results for unicorns.


Yeah, I just read that. And then right after I read that, I searched for the app, installed it, and ran it, and it works.

So apparently, they haven’t pulled it for the Moto X.

They pulled it.

Yay, Android privacy!