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Here's How to Protect Your Data From Invasive Android App Permissions

You're putting your data at risk whenever you grant your Android apps more permissions than they need. Manage Android app permissions to protect your data.

Android logo on phone screen
If you don't want your Android apps having excessive access to your data, you need to manage your Android app permissions.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Mobile apps are known to often request permissions they have no need for. You've likely noticed some of your Android apps asking for excessive permissions that are completely unrelated to what the app is supposedly designed to do -- like if a flashlight app requests access to your camera, microphone or location. When an app asks for permissions that are outside the scope of what it needs to function, it's usually so the company behind the app can collect as much of your data as possible and sell it off to third parties like advertisers and data brokers. 

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Watch out for permissions like access to your location, camera, microphone, contacts, browsing history and photo library. These can be particularly invasive and risky if not explicitly required for an app to function. An app can collect a lot of sensitive personal information from certain permissions, which can pose a major risk to your privacy if that data is mishandled or exposed in a breach. This is why it's important to manage app permissions on your Android devices. 

As you're managing your app permissions, it's important to make sure to keep them at a minimum. Only give your Android apps permission to access what they need to access on your device to provide the functionality you require from them. For example, it's natural that your weather app or navigation app will need access to your location to function properly. However, there's no reason it would need access to your camera or your contacts. And in some cases, you might not even need to give a weather app your location data if you can manually enter your ZIP code or city. 

Fortunately, it's easy to change app permissions on your Android device -- and you can choose whether you want to manage permissions by app or by permission type. 

Note that the steps outlined below apply to devices running Android 11 and up. Here's how to manage app permissions on your Android device. 

How to manage Android app permissions by app

If you're concerned about the permissions granted to a certain app on your Android device, you can manage permissions on a per-app basis. Here's what to do:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Tap Apps.

3. Scroll down and tap on the app in question (or you can search for the app by tapping the magnifying glass icon).

4. Tap Permissions.

5. Tap on a permission to allow or not allow.

You can also access the Permissions menu from any app by tapping and holding the app's icon on your phone's screen. Tap the Info icon in the top right corner of the window that pops up to access the App info menu and tap Permissions from there.

From the App info menu, you can also enable the Remove permissions if app is unused feature, which removes permissions for the app if you haven't used it for three months.

How to manage Android app permissions by permission type

If you'd like to see which apps you've denied or allowed access to a certain permission -- like your microphone or location -- you can manage your app permissions by permission type. Here's how:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Tap Privacy.

3. Tap Permission manager.

4. Tap the permission type to see which apps allow the selected permission.

5. Tap on an app and select Allow or Don't allow.

How to universally manage camera and microphone access for all apps

You can even universally deny all apps from accessing your camera and/or microphone with a single toggle switch if you want to take a hard line with those two permissions. Here's how you can toggle camera and microphone permissions across all apps on your Android device:

1. Tap Settings.

2. Tap Privacy.

3. Toggle Camera access and Microphone access on or off.

Going this route can be a great way to guarantee that no app has access to your camera or microphone. However, keep in mind that video communication apps like Zoom or Skype, which rely on your camera and microphone to operate will not work properly if you have these permissions set to the "off" position.

For more advice, check out five tips to make your Android phone feel like new again, how to erase your Android device's cookies and cache and get rid of excess junk files and how to disinfect and remove fingerprints from your filthy phone screen