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It seems like a growing number of (seemingly legitimate) apps casually claim the "Services that cost you money" permissions (making calls and sending SMS) for non-essential secondary features that aren't the main thing people download the app for.

A couple of examples I've seen recently are Any.Do and 2Do. These apps' primary purpose is managing to do lists and projects, but they have secondary minor features that use these permissions (I think it is for scheduling responses to missed calls and sharing tasks by SMS).

I don't want to allow any non-official app on my phone to make phone calls or send SMS. It's just not something I need 3rd party apps to do for me, and I'm not interested in these secondary features. The developers look reasonably legit - but I generally prefer not to feel like I'm unneccessarily handing a company I don't know an open wallet. But I would, ideally, like to be able to use these apps for their primary features, which appear to be very good and better than the competition for what I want.

Is there any way to download these apps and prevent these permissions from being used? Or to make it so any time they did try to make a call or send an SMS, I get some kind of system confirmation notice and the opportunity to stop it before it happens.

(please note this isn't a question about to-do apps, I'm aware there are loads of alternatives that don't use these permissions. It's a question about any kind of app you want for any reason, that requires call and SMS permissions for a non-essential minor feature you're not going to use)


Ideally I'd prefer not to need to root the phone to do this. I've looked at the app Permission Denied (requires root acces) and while I love the idea of what the app does, it sounds like a complicated road that I don't have time to go down. Likewise for custom ROMs.

I don't mind if it's a blunt solution that stops any app except the Android phone interface itself from making calls or sending SMS. In fact, that would be ideal. I thought about trying to use an app like Tasker to set up a trigger on any ongoing call or SMS that cancels it if it wasn't called directly by the Android phone interface, but I doubt that it would work (and of course Tasker uses these permissions itself...).

Also ideally I'd prefer not to need to spend lots of time in airplane mode unable to receive normal calls or messages - but I'll accept a strong solution that involves using airplane mode some of the time if there is no better approach.

I also don't mind if a solution causes the app to crash or force close any time it tries to use one of these permissions. If it thinks it needs to make a call or SMS, that itself is a sign that something is wrong.

This earlier question covers somewhat similar ground but with a focus on data privacy, monitoring, and proper sandboxing for rooted phones. Only one answer there seems like it could be a non-root solution to this specific problem - the app App Shield - but it seems to be no longer available (dead link and nothing relevant in Google Play app search).

EDIT - I've added a seperate linked question trying to find out what the deal is with App Shield: Is App Shield safe, stable, available?


Phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note if that's relevant.

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Good luck with that... I don't think you'll find a good solution without rooting the phone. If you change your mind, I'd recommend LBE Privacy Guard - it's exactly what you want. –  Logos Jun 2 '12 at 14:57
    
It's starting to look like you're probably right. Seems like a shame that casual, ordinary Android users are forced to either a) pass on apps that are probably perfectly legit, b) take security risks or c) go deeper under the hood of their devices than they want to go or are comfortable going - regular users shouldn't be forced to become super-users just to stay secure. –  user568458 Jul 14 '12 at 10:14
    
Seriously, a good way of questioning. –  VenomVendor Nov 7 '13 at 22:33
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1 Answer

The only right advise here is to download an app with the same functionality but that does not grants itself this permission.

Developers sometimes grant their apps permission their app in fact doesn't need. If you are aware and you don't agree with this trend, the only thing you can do is not download such apps. Or even better, you can consider contacting the developer of the application and ask him why this permission is required. Maybe they are not aware of the fact and are very willing to remove the permission if they can please their users with it.

A to-do list should not have the permission to send SMS messages, if I see a to-do app that requires this permission myself, I would just look for another app to use.

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Maybe the better attitude is to check if its legitimate first. Use droidwall to block outgoing packets (3G/Wifi) for those "iffy" looking apps first! Then flag up the developer responsible and ask "Why is that permission needed?" - the end result of the cop-out attitude "If I see a app that requires this permission, I would just look for another app to use" - piles of apps will be just sitting there - all because no one has actually raised it up with the developers of said app. Pester them, tweet about it, email them, shame 'em, they don't bite you, you know! –  t0mm13b Jun 23 '12 at 14:39
    
@t0mm13b Of course you are right, I also e-mail developers (or anyone) if I have remarks, either with positive or negative feedback. But I didn't think this behavior was relevant regarding the given problem here. But indeed maybe contacting the developer would help. Will update –  Steven Roose Jun 23 '12 at 14:42
    
Myself, f.e. I do not contact developers if their app is one in 100 for a specific application. But if I care about the app I usually do :) –  Steven Roose Jun 23 '12 at 14:45
    
Yes, nice thing about using a firewall, is you can actually check if the data packets are indeed being transmitted for either or both wifi/3g - that will nail 'em as you would have the proof and say "Yo, you sending out private sms messages to a certain site blah blah", they'll be caught out! :D –  t0mm13b Jun 23 '12 at 14:45
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Really, the only custom ROM that I know of that will enable you to grant/deny individual permissions to apps (even if its specified in the manifest of the said app) is CyanogenMod 7... just saying.. Its not going to happen on stock ROM btw, the OP actually never mentioned what ROM they're using or handset either :) –  t0mm13b Jun 23 '12 at 14:49
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