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Is my flashlight app spying on me?
October 22, 2014
4:50 pm
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MrsGeek
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Forum Posts: 2823
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July 2, 2010
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Q: Dear Chris and Jim,.
Is there any credibility to this message?
Once you showed me how to use this app, I use it all the time!
Carol
Published on Oct 1, 2014
Flashlight Apps on your smartphone could expose your personal information to cyber criminals.  Any personal information, photos and even your location via GPS.  This could cause big problems for you and your children that have smartphones with the flashlight app installed.  Take a look.
 
The guy in the video is a fear-mongerer! I hate that! Yes, there are a few apps to be concerned about, but it is NOT the equivalent of the Ebola outbreak! Geeeeez Even according to the fear-mongerer himself, the problem only exists with Flashlight Apps that you downloaded (not that came with the phone) and on the Android platform … so what app do they show in the image? The pre-installed Apple iPhone flashlight! Total misinformation, total fear-mongering!
 
Every App in Apple’s App store and also in Google’s Play store (just a little less stringent) are researched by Apple/Google and deemed OK. If a bad app slips thru, it gets removed as soon as they learn about it. On the Android side of the fence, you can also download apps direct from websites without going thru the Google Play Store … that is where you really need to be careful. 
 
It is a good idea to check the permissions of your apps. So, if you have a flashlight app that you’re unsure about, take a look at its permissions.  For example, I have an old flashlight app called TeslaLED. I decided to check it out.  I go to 
Settings
Applications->Application Manager
Downloaded Apps
find the TeslaLED App and tap on it
Scroll down till I see the Permissions section
here are the permissions I found:
  1. Take pictures and videos
  2. draw over other apps
  3. control flashlight
  4. prevent phone from sleeping

3 and 4 are obvious and fine. I’m not exactly sure why it needs to be able to take pictures, but I guess that the flash is considered part of the camera because every flashlight app I’ve looked at requires that permission. Draw over other apps is also confusing to me so I tapped on it and got this explanation … “Allows the app to draw on top of other applications or parts of the user interface.  They may interfere with your use of the interface in any application, or change what you think you are seeing in other applications.” Clear as mud!   But it sounds like a pop-up capability – nothing dangerous. 

IF a flashlight asked for permissions to access your cellular data or wifi or your contact list, I would be suspicious and wouldn’t download that one. Flashlights aren’t the only apps that could be culprits. It really takes some time and thought to review these permissions and think about whether they are really needed. If you don’t want to spend all your time buried in details, you have to trust the Play Store and the App store in most cases.  

I’ve downloaded dozens, probably hundreds of apps over the several years I’ve had my devices. I am not at all diligent in studying the permissions. I’ve never had a problem. I always download from the store provided. The only time I’ve even been cautious was when my granddaughter asked me to download a game. Then I looked at the permissions. I don’t want a game that needs access to my contact list. Some of those are perfectly legitimate for multi-player games – I just don’t want them.

Probably tmi (too much information) for what you were asking :-) But that’s my take. If I

  1. download apps only from the official store
  2. read the reviews and notice the numbers of downloads
  3. notice the author name and make sure it makes sense. e.g. if the app is called Google Maps, the author better be Google! There is usually a website listed as well, if in doubt – go take a look.

If I do that, especially if I had a recommendation for a particular app, I’m confident.  If you want to know more, I found this good Article: What to look for in Android Permissions

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