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Google removes app permissions manager from Android 4.4

In the most recent Android 4.4 release, Google has disabled a hidden feature that could control or disable permissions for individual apps.

In the most recent Android 4.4 release, Google has disabled a hidden feature that could control or disable permissions for individual apps.

The Permission Manager app. (Credit: Google)

In Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Google quietly introduced a feature called App Ops, letting users adjust permissions for individual apps. You could, for example, restrict Skype from accessing your contacts list, but still allow it to make video calls and access your phone's camera.

Users who want more granular control over their apps in Android 4.3 can download Permission Manager from the Google Play Store, to see the permissions granted to all their apps, and adjust them as they want. The app even shows the top five most dangerous apps with the most permissions granted.

But with Android 4.4 KitKat, that functionality is gone. Google told the Electronic Frontiers Foundation that the feature was "experimental", and had the potential to break application compatibility. The EFF isn't happy; it wants the feature back, and expanded in scope to include the ability to restrict apps' information access and network access with a single switch.

Application permissions have been easily adjusted in Apple's iOS operating system for iPhones and iPads for years now. Google is slowly catching up, but it needs to find a way for users to more minutely control the information that apps are able to harvest.