Shining a Light on Flashlights

Apps are amazing, but unfortunately, sometimes they take advantage of their users. This is a problem especially on Android, where as of now, users can only grant all permissions an app requests or none at all. That will change in Android Marshmallow, where users will be able to select which permissions they’d like to grant to an app, but until you get the update, there’s potential for your privacy to be compromised if you aren’t careful. One source of the problem is something that seems innocent: flashlight apps.

So far, there has been only one major incident involving flashlight apps. The maker of the former most popular app on Google Play was forced to settle with the Federal Trade Commission following an investigation which showed that the company was stealthily gathering location data from its users and selling it to advertisers.

Control-Center-Flashlight

Luckily for iPhone and iPod touch users, iOS includes a built-in flashlight button in Control Center. If you don’t know how to get there, just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap the flashlight at the bottom, shown above, to turn it on or off. The button only turns the LED flash on the back of the device on or off, and doesn’t do anything sketchy like some of the Android apps. Some Android phones have a similar built-in flashlight feature, but it’s up to the manufacturer to include it.

Beyond that, though, it’s been up to Android users to sniff out any sketchy flashlight apps and avoid them. So how should Android users keep themselves safe? There’s no reason to panic, but there’s always reason to be cautious. Don’t download apps from sources other than Google Play, and no matter where you get an app, be sure to check through the permissions it’ll request before you install. Most importantly, with any app, ask yourself: Does a puzzle game really need access to my microphone? Does a flashlight app really need access to my location? Asking yourself simple questions like those can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

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