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I've noticed several Android apps that advertise different permission requirements than they actually get after they are installed. I'm on Android 5.0.2.

To be more specific:

  • I locate an app through Google Play and I click the INSTALL button to get a look at the required permissions.

  • The system shows a pop-up to report that "[app name] does not require any special permissions."

  • After installing the app, through Settings --> Applications --> Application Manager, I locate the newly-installed app in the list, click on it, and the permissions listed are: "full network access" (among others).

Does anyone know why users are misled in this manner?

  • 2
    "I locate an app through Google Play and I click the INSTALL button to get a look at the required permissions" -- that will not list all of the permissions. Use the "permission details" option, towards the bottom of the screen/page. – CommonsWare Jul 2 '16 at 10:55
  • @CommonsWare: I agree, the permission details link is accurate. It is still misleading though, because a lot of users won't check that and will instead rely on the information provided by the pop-up of the install button. – Neo Zen Jul 13 '16 at 12:37
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In Android, permissions are categorized into 2 categories:

  1. Normal permissions: Very little risk to user's privacy (like access to internet)
  2. Dangerous permissions: High risk to user's privacy (like reading and modifying contacts)

Normal permissions are allowed at install time, and they won't be asked.

If there are any dangerous permissions, then you will be presented with a pop-up stating the dangerous permissions, and allow you to make a call whether to go ahead with the installation or not.

In your case, access to internet comes under normal permissions, hence there was no confirmation before installation.

For a list of all normal permissions:

https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/security/normal-permissions.html

EDIT: Even if you upgrade to Android Marshmallow(6.0), which follows a different permission model, and allows the users to revoke specific permissions, you won't be allowed to revoke normal permissions. Revocation of dangerous permissions only is allowed.

  • A very good answer. I was not aware of this. – yoyo_fun Jul 3 '16 at 0:21
  • Thanks for taking the time to answer and explain this in detail. The model appears to be broken, unless I'm missing something. Internet access is a threat to user privacy. Consider the following scenario: a user is looking to install a word/notepad-type app. After seeing the pop-up that a particular app does not require special permissions, she decides to install it because Android won't allow it to access the internet and send data out. The user enters some confidential information on this app, such as notes for when she visits the doctor. The app sends this information out. – Neo Zen Jul 13 '16 at 12:45
  • That's why, as pointed out by @CommonsWare, a user can see all the permissions requested by an app under the "permission details" option. :) – pri Jul 13 '16 at 13:08
  • @PriyankGupta: I understand that the information is indeed there, at the bottom of the installation page. It does not change the fact that it's misleading to see different information when the user clicks the install button. Nor does it change the fact that the permissions model could be further refined, since it does not currently consider full internet access to be a potential threat to user privacy. – Neo Zen Jul 13 '16 at 13:14
  • Agreed, I am not supporting Android on this one. Might be because so many apps have ads as their source of revenue, hence they decided it to keep internet in normal permissions. Maybe in some future version of android(or Google Play), they provide an option to see all the permissions when "install" button is clicked... – pri Jul 13 '16 at 13:36

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