What is the Privacy Impact feature?
The Privacy Impact feature is unique to the Android 5.1 version of the Fairphone OS. When your Fairphone 2 still runs this version, we strongly recommend updating to Android 6. The feature became redundant for Android 6.
When you want to know more or you are adamant in keeping your device running on Android 5 (Android 6 is safer!), keep on reading.
The Privacy Impact feature checks permissions of apps the first time you open them. This way you can become more aware of the amount of access you give to apps.
Privacy Impact shows when you start an installed app for the first time. If you don’t like it, you can turn it off by ticking the checkbox. You can always turn it back on by going into Settings → Sound & Notification → Privacy Impact.
A smartphone is deeply personal device filled with private data. It contains your contacts, text messages and emails. But it is also able to determine your location, record audio and take pictures. Various parties are interested in this data for different reasons.
Android™ 5.1 -the standard operating system on Fairphone 2- uses a permission system to protect users from unwanted access to their personal data by apps. Unfortunately, this permission system is not very effective from a usability perspective. Research showed that users don’t pay attention to the permissions popup, don’t comprehend the individual permissions and are unable to connect the warnings to risks. This is a major issue, since permissions are a key user protection component.
Fairphone improved on this with Privacy Impact as our first step in that direction. It is an analysis of the permissions requested by an app. It scans the presence of particular combinations of permissions. Usually access to personal data is not bad in itself. It gets tricky when there is a combination with a communication channel like the internet. This enables an app to exfiltrate personal data.
Privacy Impact provides an indication. It translates the textual permission requests by apps into an easier to comprehend graph. The feature is not able to take into account the intention of the app developer. Nor does it show how the apps use the permissions. Privacy Impact is our first step towards a more transparent permission system: more to come!