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A Blog for Cell Phone Camera Enthusiasts

Of the countless functions a cell phone has, one ‘hack’ is so simple and functional that it was almost revolutionary – the camera flash used as a flashlight. Cameras have always had flashes, but that’s all they did – flash – and quickly at that. When someone realized that a cell phone camera’s flash could be kept on, the world became a better place. No more burning your fingers with a lighter at a concert ballad. No more stubbing your toe getting to the other side of the room to turn on the light, no more fumbling around in the dark trying to get the key in to the dang keyhole. You have a light in your pocket!

But someone, in fact many ‘someones’ has taken this innocent, super-functional feature and turned it into a sinister, devilish, Orwellian tool. One glaring example is Goldenshores Technologies’ Brightest Flashlight app for Android. This app collected location information and unique device ID’s from tens of millions of its users, and then shared (pronounced sold) it to advertisers, even for users that specified they did not want their information collected or shared.

When you install an app, you are usually prompted when the app requests certain permissions. Here is a list of the rights requested by the #1 flashlight app for Android, Super Bright LED Flashlight…

  • control cell phone flashlight
  • prevent device from hibernating/sleeping
  • list of apps currently running
  • modify system settings
  • modify or delete your USB storage
  • take pictures/videos
  • view available Wi-Fi connections
  • get phone status and unique iD
  • receive Internet data
  • full network access
  • change system display settings

Now ask yourself, why on earth would a flashlight need anything beyond the top one or two items on the list? The obvious answer is they wouldn’t need those permissions. I’m sure if you read the fine print of the agreement when you installed the app, or if you ask the software company’s CEO, those reasons would be rationalized with some phony lawyer/developer jargon.

The best policy for installing any app, whether flashlight app or not, would be to review the permissions requested during installation. If you find the permissions to be liberal, then opt not to install the app, or if possible, install it without allowing it the permissions you prefer not to grant. It’s too bad that as soon as someone creates a revolutionary idea, someone else will find a way to exploit it.

July 19th, 2015

Posted In: General

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