SEARCH

How-To Geek

How to Restrict Android App Permissions

image

Android forces you to agree to every permission an app wants, assuming you want to use the app. After rooting your device, you can manage permissions on a per-app basis.

Restricting permissions allows you to protect your contacts and other private data from apps that demand access you’d rather not allow. Many apps will continue working properly after you revoke the permissions.

App Options

To restrict app permissions, you’ll have to root your Android phone or tablet. After you do, you can install a permission-restricting app and get started. Here are a few of the most popular options:

  • Permissions Denied – Permissions Denied is a reasonably popular, open-source app. Permissions Denied also requires BusyBox installed – install BusyBox, launch the app, and tap the Install button before using it.
  • LBE Privacy Guard – LBE Privacy Guard is popular and offers features Permissions Denied doesn’t – for example, it can fake certain types of private data when an app asks for it instead of blocking the request entirely. This prevents some apps from crashing after you restrict a permission. However, LBE Privacy Guard is closed-source, which may be a concern with an app that requires this type of access.
  • PDroid – PDroid is an open-source app that offers similar compatibility features to LBE Privacy Guard. Installation is more complex, involving patching your Android ROM – however, this allows PDroid to work even during the startup process.

Restricting Permissions

We’ll be using Permissions Denied here, but the other options should work similarly. After installing your app of choice, launch it and give it superuser permissions – remember, you’ll need root access for this part.

image

Permissions Denied will scan your installed apps and determine their permissions.

image

Permissions Denied warns us that messing with permissions can cause problems in some cases. This is fairly rare, but be aware that you tweak permissions and mess with root apps at your own risk – you may have to perform a factory reset (and lose any data that isn’t synced with your Google account) if something breaks.

image

Scroll through the list of apps and select the app whose permissions you want to view and restrict.

image

Permissions Denied explains each permission in detail. For example, we can see that Angry Birds Space – along with many other apps – has permission to view the device’s serial number and monitor the phone numbers you call.

image

To restrict a permission, tap the permission  in the list – its status will change to Disabled. The permission won’t actually be disabled until you restart your device, however.

image

You can restart by tapping the menu button and tapping Reboot, or by shutting down and powering on your device normally.

image

After restarting, re-open Permissions Denied and verify that the permission still appears as Denied. If the permission change didn’t stick, you may have to use the Lock Permissions option in the menu – consult Permissions Denied’s FAQ/Help screen for more information.

image

You should also launch the app and check if it runs properly without these permissions. In the case of Angry Birds Space, it does not. We’ll have to undo the permissions change – or use a permission-denying app that fakes this information – to play Angry Birds.

Even if you’re using a permission-denying app that spoofs certain types of private information, restricting access to certain permissions may still cause crashes. For example, if an app requires access to the USB storage, restricting this permission may cause the app to force close.

image

However, many apps will work properly after rejecting certain permissions. For example, Angry Birds does work fine with the location-access permission disabled.

image


Which permission-restricting app do you prefer? Leave a comment and let us know.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/6/12

Comments (8)

  1. crab

    I find LBE unreliable – it sometimes lets apps access location or internet even though I’ve denied permission on my phone. I’ll have to try the other 2.

  2. Alex M

    Yeah I agree @crab, I’ve been running into the same problems with LBE. I’ll give the two others a shot even if I’m not cool with my apps force closing…

  3. UltimatePSV

    That’s what I really like about custom ROMs. For example, I run CyanogenMod 7 on my Droid X, so it has permission management built into its options.

  4. ichido

    Giving up your privacy is the ‘Cost’ for the No Cost Apps.

  5. rangerevo8

    For internet access, I was using Avast for its firewall to block all app by default.
    I had allowed apps that i wanted it to have internet access and those system apps that needed internet access.

    So far no app can pass that.

  6. ¥en

    I have to agree with rangerevo8, I find the best way to stop call homes and leaks of private date is a firewall.
    I use DroidWall myself, and it gives you a widget to temp disable firewall and allow all access. This uses IPTables, and must have rooted rom in order to use however, but is reliable as hell.

  7. Mark

    Almost impossible these days to find a non-paid or even a paid application that does not want access to just about everything on your smartphone. The permission requests are ridiculous! I have yet to find a good application that blocks these features without it its self wanting to access everything on your smartphone in return. Like hiring one gangster to protect you from the other gangster.

  8. Syntax

    @Mark

    UltimatePSV hit the nail on the head. Running CM7 myself and am VERY happy with my ability to restrict apps ability to read my contact data.

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!