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I'm choosing a new phone, been using my Lumia for ages, so I'm a bit off about the whole thing. What I've discovered so far is that android devices are mostly much superior to their iOS counterparts in terms of hardware and extensibility, however the system of permissions seems to be insane.

Permissions are grouped by the android itself in a way that mixes read access with write access and combines different scopes. At the same it it does not provide a way to select/deselect individual permissions in a group - you either go "all-in" or "leave".

E.g. Skype asks for so many permissions, it effectively would be able to read my contact list, content of sd card, call history, get list of other running applications and more. While Microsoft claims that they do not gather this kind of info, I don't have any means to check it.

This seems insane to me, because linux itself provides a granular level configuration of permissions.

As I've read, in the latest Android aka Marshmallow permissions are being asked for during run-time, only when first needed, also they can be revoked by the user at any moment.

But are these permissions still the same badly configured broad groups? If I tap "Allow" will the permission be saved, can allow "only for this time" - until the app is closed? Can I constrain the list of permissions available when the app runs in background?

Probably there are other possibilities/apps to control privacy settings in android?

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If I tap "Allow" will the permission be saved, can allow "only for this time" - until the app is closed? Can I constrain the list of permissions available when the app runs in background?

If you choose to grant the permission during runtime the app would be able to access the underlying resource as many times as it wants until you do clear data or reinstall the app. There is no constraint available in stock Android's Settings app which can restrict the permissions when an app is running in background.

[Are there] other possibilities/apps to control privacy settings in [Android]?

Yes, and as Matthew Read noted XPrivacy is a flexible and powerful app to manage information sharing with installed apps. It is excellent but not perfect so you should not be surprised with crashes of the restricted apps.

Permissions are grouped by the android itself in a way that mixes read access with write access and combines different scopes.

I would like to address that with this quote:

If an app requests a dangerous permission listed in its manifest, and the app already has another dangerous permission in the same permission group, the system immediately grants the permission without any interaction with the user. For example, if an app had previously requested and been granted the READ_CONTACTS permission, and it then requests WRITE_CONTACTS, the system immediately grants that permission.

In plain words it appears to me that Android assumes that if the user is comfortable with granting an app a dangerous permission belonging to a certain group then they would not be having any problem if the system automatically grants rest of the permissions (dangerous or not) of the same group to that app, when requested.

Since normal permissions are always granted and considered safe I recommend you consider directing your attention to permissions groups holding dangerous permissions. Those permissions groups are self-describing and are not as much complicated as they seem to be at first sight.

Related:

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I believe that's just how the Play Store is grouping them for display. Many read and write permissions are separate — see the list here. I am not familiar with the new feature to manage them, though.

However, yes there are indeed other ways to control app permissions. I used Xposed (requires root) in conjunction with XPrivacy which gives control over individual permissions and even specific API calls. In that app you can easily filter by app or by permission and just check/uncheck what you want.

  • What you describe as separate permissions come from a more "internal" point of view. For example, there are indeed separate permissions to READ_CONTACTS and WRITE_CONTACTS, however a user is unable to select them individually, there is only an option to grant access to "Contacts", see whatitallboilsdownto.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/… – xaxa May 17 '16 at 17:23
  • @xaxa That screenshot doesn't show any kind of selection/deselection at all? If you're familiar with that process I'd suggest posting a separate answer. – Matthew Read May 17 '16 at 17:25

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