Privacy, what privacy?

There are about 20 apps on my Android phone waiting for me to grant them additional privileges. Booking.com wants to:

  • “find accounts on the device”
  • “test access to protected storage”
  • “modify or delete the contents of your USB storage”

Facebook takes it to a totally different level. It has the longest list of access grants that I’ve seen. Among other things it wants to:

  • “read your contacts”
  • “modify your contacts”
  • “read calendar events plus confidential information”
  • “add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge”
  • “read your text messages (SMS or MMS)”

What on earth does all that mean? Finding accounts on the device? Sending email to guests without my knowledge?

This is what I think: Nobody reads the permissions anyway before hitting the “Accept” button and everybody else is doing it so why don’t I (supplier of application X) also take my chances. Who knows what use I might get of reading my users’ text messages and sending email to random people on the contact list. As a minimum it can be used to fan out spam very efficiently.

It seems hard to find a way to give Google or the app developers feedback on this matter. I don’t even know where to begin. I have tried to email Booking.com. We’ll see if there is any response.

This is like the thing with the absurd roaming fees. They, like the exaggerated permissions, render an otherwise perfectly fine technology useless (if you mind the app sending spam to the people on your contact list that is). This is a pity. Maybe it’s time for the European Commission to look into the permissions, like they have done with the roaming fees? Until then, I’ll stick to the old versions of the apps or uninstall entirely if need be.

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