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Take control of Android app permissions

Find out how to selectively allow or deny Android app permissions requests, in this in-depth tutorial.

App permissions are one of the most controversial and confusing parts of the Android app world.

For security reasons many functions and data within Android are restricted, and inaccessible to apps. If an app requires access to one of these functions – such as the ability to access the internet over a 3G connection, or use the GPS hardware – it needs to explicitly request permission.

When you download an app you’re presented with a list of all the permissions the app is requesting so you know exactly what you’re getting.

It’s a simple idea, but in practice doesn’t quite work. In many instances the permissions requested are quite straightforward – a satnav needs to be able to use GPS, for example – but often they’re not, such as when a game asks for permission to access your contacts app.

Permissions can also be quite obscure, it’s not always clear what all of them actually do, and to compound the problem further you get no control over them. You cannot download an app without accepting its permission requests.

But if you’ve got a rooted phone you can wrestle back some control over what your apps get up to. With the free LBE Privacy Guard app you can allow or deny specific permissions on a case by case basis, preventing apps from snooping around your data or tracking your location without your knowledge.

Note that you can stop an app from working if you deny the wrong permission, so tread lightly with your changes, although they can all be undone easily enough.

  1. Take control of Android app permissions

    Choose the Permission Manager

    Download and launch LBE Privacy Guard. You’ll see that the app also includes a Firewall feature that enables you to control which apps are accessing the internet. For the purposes of this tutorial, though, we’ll be using the Permission Manager screen, so select that.

  2. Take control of Android app permissions

    Privacy and money

    The main Permission screen focusses on the key permissions surrounding the privacy of your data (such as those that can read your text messages or track your position), and the ones that can cost your money (such as those that can make calls).

  3. Take control of Android app permissions

    Which apps?

    Tap on one of the permissions to see which of your apps are requesting it. By default the apps you’ve installed have an ‘i’ icon next to them, meaning you will be prompted each time the app uses the permission. System apps are listed as Trusted apps, and it’s a good idea to leave these as they are.

  4. Take control of Android app permissions

    Granting and revoking permission

    Pick an app from the list and a new menu will appear with the options Allow, Prompt and Deny. For something like a Weather app, which needs to know you location, you can choose Allow; for the others you should leave them on Prompt for the time being.

  5. Take control of Android app permissions

    Viewing all your apps

    Hit the Back button and then select the Apps tab. You’ll now see a list of all the apps on your phone and the permissions they ask for. Tap on an app to see those permissions. If you trust the app you can tick the trust box and it will no longer be monitored by LBE Privacy Guard.

  6. Take control of Android app permissions

    Block internet access

    If you’ve got an app you don’t want to go online, or one which uses a lot of data that you only want to use on a Wi-Fi network, untick either the Mobile Network option or both to restrict the app’s online capabilities.

  7. Take control of Android app permissions

    Permission prompts

    Now exit LBE Privacy Guard and launch one of your other apps. As soon as it requests access to one of your restricted permissions a dialog box will appear on screen. Tap to allow or deny the permission, and tick the box to remember your answer for that app in future.

  8. Take control of Android app permissions

    Notifications and alerts

    LBE also makes use of the notifications pane on your phone, putting less important but still notable events in the pane for you to view. These will appear whenever certain permissions are used, and show you what an app is up to.

  9. Take control of Android app permissions

    Take control of your apps

    Back in Permission Manager within LBE click on the Event Log tab to see a long list of some of the things your apps have been doing. Now you can check whether apps are taking liberties with your phone’s data – tap and hold on an entry to always allow or deny that permission for the app.

  10. Take control of Android app permissions

    Installing a new app

    With LBE Privacy Guard now fully up and running and configured it will happily continue running in the background monitoring your phone. The next time you install an app a notification will appear prompting you to review and set t he permissions for the app.

  • http://doothedroid.blogspot.com Wayne

    Yes, I have been using LBE Privacy Guard for quite a while now. When it comes to privacy protection, there is not better app for your Android device than LBE. Great article, thanks for sharing!

  • Ron

    I’ve been looking for an app like this for my tablet so am wondering if this app would also suitable to use on a tablet? (ASUS TF201)
    I am quite new to Android OS and am still getting my head around it. (as compared to Micro$oft Windows) It would be good if apps could be marked as phone/tablet only or all devices.

  • Wayne

    To answer your question Ron, yes LBE Privacy Guard can be used on tablets as well. I have it on my smartphone as well as my tablet.

  • abc

    any option for non rooted android devices??

  • Joe

    I have an Android softwinner A13-MID running Android 4.0.3 and when I open the page for this app on Google play the site states that this this program is not compatible. Can you help me find something similar.

  • paul

    Hey, I used this software on CM10 Nightly 06112012 and the minute I grant it Root, the display goes black and I have to wait 20sec to be able to turn it back on again, but only for 10sec max until goes black again. Make it compatible with JB 4.1.2 please, it’s an awesome app otherwise, I used it all the time with MIUI!

  • paul

    Please delete my post above, I just had to fix permissions from CWM and now everything works flawless!

  • Guillermo (Buenos Aires)

    I had the same issue than Paul: this app fails when the Active Defense feature is enabled, since a device running JellyBean (v4.1.x) will fall into a boot loop.

    Apart from the above, this is a MUST Have App for all Android rooted device.

  • Samsung Galaxy SII JB 4.1.2

    If you have jellybean it will get your phone stuck in a bootloop.

    DO NOT USE THIS APP!!

  • Galaxy SII JB 4.2.2

    WARNING! Causes a bootloop on 4.2.2 (PACman ROM installed). Do not use!

    I was able to uninstall it when it booted but before the application attempted to run.

  • sid

    Not to be a cynic or anything. I’ve used LBE Privacy in the past and it worked great. The problems however are as follows:
    a) you’re giving this software root privileges and you don’t know what it’s doing mainly because
    b) this software is not open source
    c) the company is virtually unknown and is, to say the least, rooted in a country where censorship is their daily bread and
    d) is probably government owned

    Bottom line, if it’s not open source or from a reputable company – DON’T TRUST IT.

  • http://www.tuto-informatica.com.ar Alejandro

    Boot loop on SGS2 with 4.1.2 Omega v23 rom.

  • Josh

    Boot loop on Nexus 4 with JB 4.2.2.
    Don’t install it on JB. I managed to stop the loop by deleting it from data/app in the FileManager before it started.

    • Brandon Jiang

      yeah…. not working on nexus 4 4.2.2 it seems

  • dmrlook

    I just started using Android Permission Blocker which I found in Google Play market. Its 99 cents (much cheaper than Permissions Denied) and does the same thing. Great little app for less than a buck. Good bye unwanted permissions!

  • http://www.facebook.com/randy.appointment Randy Appointment

    If you have Permission Problems when trying to run backup just enable system busybox

    Source: http://bit.ly/12GcgYA

  • http://nrdc.org pw henderson

    nice ad. loaded this and my phone is now in some kind of screen loop. looks like i’m in for a full recovery. lame
    nexus 4, rooted