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So-called ‘Dangerous Permissions’ are rising in the Google Play Store

Piotr Boiwka
Sep 28, 2021 12:00:00 PM

In the first half of 2021, 2.34 million apps in Google Play Store requested at least one “dangerous permission.” The total number of apps requesting dangerous permission rose by 3% YoY, but for some permissions with potentially significant privacy implications, the number increased by double-digit percentages.

It is essential to remember that not all apps use potentially dangerous permissions to exploit user’s data. Instead, Pixalate is merely rendering an opinion that these facts may be suggestive of heightened risks to data subjects.

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Pixalate’s H1 2021 Mobile App ‘Dangerous Permissions’ Report analyzed nine specific “dangerous permissions” that have potentially significant privacy implications. Eight of them became more ubiquitous compared to H1 2020. Only the Read Phone State permission has become less common among Google Play Store apps.

Increase of the most common dangerous permissions in Google Play Store

Of the remaining eight “dangerous permissions” studied that increased YoY, four of them saw jumps of more than 10%. The presence of Record Audio — allowing the app to access the device’s microphone and record audio — increased among Google Play Store apps by 21%.

The permission with the second highest increase YoY is Activity Recognition. It rose by 19% and allows the app to identify and track the user’s physical activity via the device. 

Read Calendar is also a “dangerous permission” with a significant rise of 17% over the past year. This allows the app to see all of the events on the calendar of the user’s device.

Access Camera is another “dangerous permission” with a double-digit increase since H1 2020 (+13%). This allows the app to record video and/or take photographs from the device’s built-in camera. 

This report and blog is reviewing the percentage change YoY of these “dangerous permissions” — but the absolute values are worth noting as well. Some, like Activity Recognition (63,000) have relatively fewer apps requesting the permissions (even though the number of apps increased YoY). Others, like Access Camera, have significantly more apps requesting the permissions (859,000). Some “dangerous permissions” are found on over 1 million apps — such as Access Fine Location.  

Pixalate will continue to monitor “dangerous permissions” among apps in the Google Play Store and report on the latest trends.

To learn more about dangerous permissions in Google Play Store and current trends in the field, download the H1 2021 Mobile App ‘Dangerous Permissions’ Report for free.

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You can also watch our webinar on October 7, 2021, we will review this data - and other data about risk factors in the mobile in-app ecosystem — in greater detail. 

Disclaimer

The content of this blog, and the Publisher Trust Indexes (collectively, the “Indexes”), reflect Pixalate’s opinions with respect to factors that Pixalate believes may be useful to the digital media industry. The Indexes examine programmatic advertising activity on mobile apps and Connected TV (CTV) apps (collectively, the “apps”). As cited in the Indexes and referenced in the Indexes’ key findings reproduced herein, the ratings and rankings in the Indexes are based on a number of metrics (e.g., “Brand Safety”) and Pixalate’s opinions regarding the relative performance of each app publisher with respect to the metrics. The data is derived from buy-side, predominantly open auction, programmatic advertising transactions, as measured by Pixalate. The Indexes examine global advertising activity across North America, EMEA, APAC, and LATAM, respectively, as well as programmatic advertising activity within discrete app categories. Any insights shared are grounded in Pixalate’s proprietary technology and analytics, which Pixalate is continuously evaluating and updating. Any references to outside sources in the Indexes and herein should not be construed as endorsements. Pixalate’s opinions are just that, opinions, which means that they are neither facts nor guarantees; and neither this press release nor the Indexes are intended to impugn the standing or reputation of any person, entity or app.

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