Checking app permissions

31st July 2019

Apps on mobile devices are used by most people on a daily basis for many reasons. Like many other services, apps often require personal data in order to provide the service customers want and expect.

Recent media reports have drawn attention to what personal data apps collect and store when you use them. While apps are sometimes useful and fun tools, it is advisable to check what access you are giving an app when it requests certain permissions. Sometimes you can also review this after you install the app.

Different apps may request different levels of access to personal data or device processes that make use of personal data depending on the organisation’s processing purposes. It is important to always be mindful of the information requested from you and ensure you know your rights regarding the processing of this information. 

Apps should only access the data or device feature they need in order to provide the service they are offering. They should request permission to do this. This may include access for functionality of the app, contact data, location, a device sensor like compass or movement detector, for security purposes, or for marketing reasons. However, they should explain why they may need to use the data or device feature. They should avoid the use of generic or standard reasons that are often provided by a device in order to explain the particular reasons they need it. In addition, apps may provide the option to only access this whilst the app is in use, rather than continuously.

Both Android and IOS have produced guides on app permissions. These guides can be useful to understand why an app may want to access your information, or how and when they should get permission to do so.

Allowing access on your device apps

When you are considering signing up to any app, you should:

  • Firstly check what happens to your personal data – why does the app need it?;
  • Be mindful of what access you are giving apps when downloading them to your device;
  • Make sure that you do not provide any personal information until you understand and are satisfied with how this information will be used; 
  • Review your access permissions in your settings of the device; and
  • If you are not satisfied, consider not installing the app or refusing the permission it asks for when you install it or afterwards.