South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) has advised the country’s estimated 18-million smartphone users to exercise caution when granting app permissions.
In order for apps to function correctly and to improve the user experience, cellular subscribers are required to grant permission for apps to access certain features of their smartphones. These may include the phone’s location, contacts or microphone.
“Cellular users need to be app-aware so that they do not automatically grant app permissions without properly thinking about what they are doing. They should question why an app would need access to information unrelated to its function,” advises Ilonka Badenhorst, WASPA’s GM.
“So much information is stored on smartphones that fraudsters have realised this information could be very valuable in exploiting the end user,” she adds.
One handset manufacturer estimates that smartphone penetration has passed the one-third mark in South Africa and will increasingly outstrip sales of feature phones in the country. With most smartphone users being introduced to apps via such highly-reputable examples as the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, mobile users could be forgiven for getting into the habit of too-easily granting app access permissions.
The results of a recent Africa-wide study by OnDeviceResearch found that 86% of smartphone users have downloaded WhatsApp, and by extension granted its American parent company access to a plethora of potentially-sensitive data. In the case of reputable, well-known and socially-responsible corporations, this isn’t a problem. However, the corporate history or intentions of every firm offering apps for download on the various app stores isn’t as well-known. Caution is the best possible approach for mobile users, Badenhorst says.
“Mobile users should remember they have the power to choose which permissions to give and they should exercise this authority with due regard for their privacy, personal security and financial wellbeing,” she adds.