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I'd like to know what Skype does with all the permissions it asks for. Is there any page where Skype (the company) justifies the various permissions?

Does it make any difference, whether I'm a paying customer or not?

The permissions are as following:

  • Your accounts
    • act as an account authenticator
      • Allows an application to use the account authenticator capabilities of the AccountManager, including creating accounts and getting and setting their passwords.
    • manage the accounts list
      • Allows an application to perform operations like adding, and removing accounts and deleting their password.
    • use the authentication credentials of an account
      • Allows an application to request authentication tokens.
  • Hardware controls
    • change your audio settings
      • Allows application to modify global audio settings such as volume and routing.
    • record audio
      • Allows application to access the audio record path.
  • Your location
    • coarse (network-based) location
      • Access coarse location sources such as the cellular network database to determine an approximate device location, where available. Malicious applications can use this to determine approximately where you are.
  • Network communication
    • full Internet access
      • Allows an application to create network sockets.
  • Your personal information
    • read contact data
      • Allows an application to read all of the contact (address) data stored on your device. Malicious applications can use this to send your data to other people.
    • write contact data
      • Allows an application to modify the contact (address) data stored on your device. Malicious applications can use this to erase or modify your contact data.
  • Phone calls
    • read phone state and identity
      • Allows the application to access the phone features of the device. An application with this permission can determine the phone number and serial number of this phone, whether a call is active, the number that call is connected to and the like.
  • Storage
    • modify/delete USB storage contents modify/delete SD card contents
      • Allows an application to write to the USB storage. Allows an application to write to the SD card.
  • System tools
    • disable keylock
      • Allows an application to disable the keylock and any associated password security. A legitimate example of this is the phone disabling the keylock when receiving an incoming phone call, then re-enabling the keylock when the call is finished.
    • prevent device from sleeping
      • Allows an application to prevent the device from going to sleep.
    • retrieve running applications
      • Allows application to retrieve information about currently and recently running tasks. May allow malicious applications to discover private information about other applications.
    • write sync settings
      • Allows an application to modify the sync settings, such as whether sync is enabled for Contacts.
    • modify global system settings
      • Allows an application to modify the system's settings data. Malicious applications can corrupt your system's configuration.

More:

  • Your accounts
    • discover known accounts
      • Allows an application to get the list of accounts known by the device.
  • Hardware controls
    • control vibrator
      • Allows the application to control the vibrator.
  • Network communication
    • view Wi-Fi state
      • Allows an application to view the information about the state of Wi-Fi.
    • view network state
      • Allows an application to view the state of all networks.
  • System tools
    • read sync settings
      • Allows an application to read the sync settings, such as whether sync is enabled for Contacts.
    • read sync statistics
      • Allows an application to read the sync stats; e.g., the history of syncs that have occurred.
  • Default
    • modify secure system settings
      • Allows an application to modify the system's secure settings data. Not for use by normal applications.
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1  
Accounts, personal info, and location are the only ones that seem out of place to me. Location's probably for statistics though. –  Matthew Read May 13 '11 at 15:33
    
Accounts is probably used to store UserID/PW, personal info is probably to grab your contacts to re-list them in the Skype app since they market it as a phone replacement, and location is probably because something in Skype uses geotagging along with stats like Matthew Read said. –  newuser May 13 '11 at 15:39
2  
Accounts is used so they can added a Skype account associated with contacts so they can be kept separate if you want to delete skype or something. –  Seth Hikari May 14 '11 at 4:09
5  
The real problem is a platform design where enabling application features which some users might like requires that every user either grant all the required permissions or not use the app at all. –  Chris Stratton May 14 '11 at 6:19
    
The author forgot one line: directly call phone numbers Allows the application to call phone numbers without your intervention. Malicious applications may cause unexpected calls on your phone bill. Note that this does not allow the application to call emergency numbers. What does Skype need this for? –  user9602 Nov 13 '11 at 14:04

2 Answers 2

  • Your accounts - Skype acts as an account authenticator the way Google does; most likely used to easily store your Skype username and password
  • Your location - probably for statistics and some location-based features
  • Your personal information - allows you to directly call a contact's phone number, as well as their Skype account, from the contacts application
  • Phone calls - almost every application needs access to to this section in order to get the phone's unique ID. Skype also needs this to know if the phone is in a call.
  • Storage - probably to store cached data
  • System tools - all of these allow Skype to prevent the phone becoming idle during a call, as well as sync contacts

All other permissions should be obvious.

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Very few apps actually retrieve your phone number with the permission "Phone calls - read phone state and identity". Skype DOES, as scanned by the app Privacy Inspector. To echo Olegas: What does Skype need this for?

To address iconiK's statement of "permissions...should be obvious": Obvious, yes. Specific, no. That's why I'm glad Privacy Inspector provides clarity.

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