A lot of Android phone users have taken the step of installing a flashlight app to transform their camera flash into a useful night time tool. But in addition to providing illumination in the dark, these apps could also be helping themselves to private data. A report by SnoopWall found that ten of the most popular flashlight apps – including the likes of Super-Bright LED Flashlight and Brightest Flashlight Free – have permission to do everything from tracking your location to deleting apps and files.
SnoopWall's privacy report looks at the top ten Android flashlight apps and shows that they all have permissions that go far beyond what is needed to provide light. While some permissions are fairly innocuous – such as controlling vibration and modifying the status bar – others give far greater cause for concern. For example, out of the top ten flashlight apps, three were able to determine a user's location, and four were able to write of delete the contents of USB storage. All were able to take photos and videos.
With millions of Android users installing such apps, it's fair to say that most will be unaware of what a seemingly innocent flashlight app could be capable of. SnoopWall has developed its own flashlight tool in the form of Privacy Flashlight which weighs in at a mere 72Kb. The app is free from the bloat that SnoopWall says other flashlight tools use to collect user data to feed to advertisers.
So what can you do apart from using Privacy Flashlight? SnoopWall has a number of recommendations including disabling GPS when you are not using it, disabling Bluetooth, and even going as far as taping over the microphone and camera to protect privacy. SnoopWall has also developed the suitably-named Privacy App which tests to see if any apps you have installed have the potential to spy on you.
Do you check app permissions before you go through with an install, or do you just forge ahead regardless?