Menu
Firefox OS to outdo Android on granular application permissions

Firefox OS to outdo Android on granular application permissions

Users will be able to revoke permissions previously granted to apps starting with Firefox OS 2.1

Future versions of the Firefox OS mobile platform will allow users to control application-specific permissions, a feature with both privacy and security benefits that's missing on Android.

Firefox OS 2.1, whose code is expected to be completed in November, will have a new option under its developer settings called Verbose App Permissions that will allow users to tweak permissions per application, according to Mozilla security engineer Frederik Braun.

"The typical list in the Settings app will then show you all the permissions an app has and allows you to set them to Allow, Prompt or Deny," Braun said Sunday in a blog post.

The feature will work for apps obtained from the Firefox Marketplace, but not for built-in apps that are shipped with Firefox OS phones by default.

Using the feature is not without risk, as some apps might stop functioning properly if they are not designed to cope with permission failures.

Unless the developer has created an error handler, "the app might be indefinitely stuck in a waiting state," Braun said.

Apple's iOS has had granular application permission control for years, but Android lacks this feature. That deficiency has drawn criticism from privacy and security experts.

Android users are asked to grant all permissions requested by an app at installation time. If they decline, the application is not installed. If they agree, there is no way to later revoke only specific permissions for that app.

Over time this has led to a situation where many apps ask for permissions they don't actually need in order to provide their primary functionality. In many cases that's because they bundle advertising frameworks that require their own, often extensive, list of permissions.

Furthermore, a June update to the Google Play app store has changed how permissions are shown to users and is now grouping them into categories, rather than listing them individually. For example users might see that an app requests SMS-related capabilities, but they would have to manually drill down to see whether those permissions refer to reading text messages or also sending them.

Google has called this a simplification to make permissions easier to understand, but some security experts believe the change makes it even harder for users to be properly informed about what they allow applications to do on their devices.

Google started to experiment with granular permission control in Android 4.3, which contained a hidden feature called App Ops that allowed users to turn off individual permissions granted to apps. However, the company later removed App Ops in Android 4.4.2, prompting advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation to call the inability to turn off app permissions "a Stygian hole in the Android security model."


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacymobile securityGoogleElectronic Frontier FoundationAccess control and authenticationMozilla Foundation

Featured

Slideshows

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA

Reseller News has honoured the leading female front runners of the New Zealand ICT industry at the 2019 Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) in Auckland. The awards recognised standout individuals across six categories, spanning Entrepreneur, Rising Star, Shining Star, Community, Technical and Achievement. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Leading female front runners of the Kiwi ICT industry honoured at 2019 WIICTA
Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch

The 2019 Reseller News Innovation Awards has kicked off with the Judges Lunch in Auckland with 70 judges in the voting panel. The awards will reflect the changing dynamics of the channel, recognising excellence across customer value and innovation - spanning start-ups, partners, distributors and vendors. Photos by Christine Wong.

Reseller News kicks off awards season in 2019 with Judges' Lunch
Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Show Comments