Last month BlackBerry released a new app for Android called BlackBerry Privacy Shade. Privacy Shade is a great app for hiding the majority of your screen from prying eyes while allowing a small viewing area that you can easily move around showing you only the content that you need to see.
It was pointed out today by one of our staff that there is almost an identical app to BlackBerry’s Privacy Shade in the Google Play Store. So I decided to take a look at the app called Privacy Screen Guard and Filter by a mob called Sand 5 developers.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but should BlackBerry feel flattered when an imitation privacy app may be a risk to user’s privacy?
Now, Privacy Screen Guard and Filter looks very similar to BlackBerry’s Privacy Shade app with a few little differences. Like Privacy Shade, it is turned on from the notification tray. Also like Privacy Shade, it gives the option of a round or rectangular window for the viewing area. It also has a transparency adjustment to lighten or darken the rest of the screen. Infact, looking at the app itself, the UI is almost identical as BlackBerry Privacy Shade.
It does however, offer a neat feature which is pinch to zoom/resize the allowable viewing area. I actually like this idea and perhaps BlackBerry may implement something like this to Privacy Shade.
Both these apps are pretty much identical in the way they work. However, there is a major difference and that is app permissions.
You see, BlackBerry have your privacy covered and the BlackBerry Privacy app doesn’t require any permissions other than “Run at start up” and “Draw Over Other Apps.” This is pretty much required for the app to work.
These are just basic permissions, and if you go to Settings/Apps/Privacy Shade and check the permissions, you will see that no permissions are requested:
Now take a look at the permissions for Privacy Screen Guard :
You will see that it is asking for access to the telephone to read phone status and identity, also to reroute outgoing calls. Now, the developer states:
The app asks for READ_PHONE_STATE permission in order to know when a call is incoming, so as to dim the shade, there have been instances where the phone has been on silent, and we did not know someone was calling because of the shade blocking floating notification.
So why is it asking for permission to reroute outgoing calls??? This instantly raises a red flag to me, because when using BlackBerry Privacy Shade and a call comes in, there is a notification at the top of of the screen, it is not “blocking the floating notification” as shown below:
Now what about the other permissions requested by Privacy Screen Guard:
- receive data from Internet
- view network connections
- full network access
- draw over other apps
- prevent device from sleeping
Just what data does it need to receive from the Internet? Why does it need full network access and to view network connections? Prevent device from sleeping??
This app also refuses to work unless you grant it the permission to access your phone. You cannot turn the permission off and still use it, it shuts down.
While this seems like a great app, and a good alternative to BlackBerry Privacy Shade, are you willing to give this app the permissions it requests? I’m certainly not willing to risk my privacy that’s for sure!!
This is just one example of an app with suspect permissions. There are hundreds, if not thousands out there.
We here at UTB sometimes, ok, a lot, harp on about privacy and security, but for good reason. There are far too many apps out there that demand certain permissions that really aren’t required. Apps that are secretly mining your data. In this day and age we really can’t be using just any old app because it does what we want. We need to be more vigilant and check deeper into the things we do on our mobile devices.
We advise to check apps thoroughly. Check the permissions it is asking for and whether it really NEEDS those permissions for it to work. See if you can disable any permissions that shouldn’t be required. If you have any doubts, uninstall it. Is your privacy/security really worth it??
We’ve reported HERE about BlackBerry’s stance on privacy. It is for this reason that I only trust BlackBerry when it comes to my security/privacy.
NOTE: Privacy Screen Guard was not checked by BlackBerry’s DTEK app on my Priv, I only installed it briefly to assist in writing this post. I couldn’t get it off my device quick enough and it was uninstalled immediately.
I’ll stick with BlackBerry Privacy Shade, thanks very much!!