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cameraHow often do users of applications actually look at the permissions that are requested by an application during install or upgrade.

I recently received an update to an application on my android phone that asked for additional permissions with the upgrade it was about to perform. The permission it wanted was access to the Camera, however the accompanying upgrade notes did not include any commentary/notes on why and what it needs the camera for and there is nothing stated in the T’s and C’s.

The app in question here is Adobe Acrobat Reader. There are many applications available that have the same behaviours of asking for permissions to parts of the device, but not stating why.

Rechecking the Google Play Store notes for the App it mentions no need for the camera.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is the free, trusted leader for reliably viewing, annotating and signing PDFs.

VIEW PDFs
• Quickly open PDF documents from email, the web or any app that supports “Share.”
• Search, scroll and zoom in and out.
• Choose Single Page, Continuous scroll or Reading mode.

ANNOTATE AND REVIEW PDFs
• Make comments on PDFs using sticky notes and drawing tools.
• Highlight and mark up text with annotation tools.

FILL AND SIGN FORMS
• Quickly fill out PDF forms by typing text into fields.
• Use your finger to e-sign any PDF document.

PRINT, STORE AND SHARE FILES
• Sign in to your free Adobe Document Cloud account.
• Connect your Dropbox account.
• Store and share files in the cloud.
• Print documents from your Android device.

IN-APP PURCHASE
Convert PDFs and organize pages on the go by subscribing to one of Adobe’s online services. You can get started without ever leaving your app, and subscriptions work across all your computers and devices.
ORGANIZE PAGES IN PDF FILES
• Subscribe to Acrobat Pro DC using In-App Purchase.
• Reorder, rotate and delete pages in your PDFs.

CREATE PDF FILES
• Subscribe to Adobe PDF Pack using In-App Purchase.
• Create PDF files.
• Convert Microsoft Office files and images to PDF.

EXPORT PDF FILES TO WORD OR EXCEL
• Subscribe to Adobe Export PDF using In-App Purchase.
• Save PDF documents as editable Microsoft Word or Excel files.

ALREADY A SUBSCRIBER?
If you have a subscription to Acrobat Pro, Acrobat Standard, PDF Pack or Export PDF, just sign in to convert and export PDFs on the go.

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES
English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian,
Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish

PRICE
Acrobat Reader for Android is free.
By downloading, you agree to the Terms of Use at http://www.adobe.com/special/misc/terms.html.

Adobe Acrobat Reader Adobe Application Permissions

This app has access to:

In-app purchases
Photos / Media / Files
  • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • read the contents of your USB storage
Storage
  • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
  • read the contents of your USB storage
Camera
  • take pictures and videos
Other
  • full network access
  • view network connections

Further digging into an adobe community blog I came across a post  states “In Adobe Acrobat for mobile we have a feature to sign PDF by selecting an image file directly on the device or clicking a picture using Camera of the device”.

However going into the “Fill and Sign” function it wanted me to download yet another app called Adobe Fill & Sign DC. This app needs access to the camera to photograph signatures for documents. At least this app had a line in the key features as to why it needs access to the camera.

Key features:

– Scan paper forms with your camera or open a file from email
– Tap to enter text or checkmarks in form fields
– Fill forms faster with reusable text from your autofill collection
– Easily create your signature with your finger or a stylus
– Apply your signature or initials to documents
– Save forms and send to others via email

 

No explanation as to why the base application needs access to the camera though.

For me several things need to happen with mobile apps in general:

  • Developers need to be aware of what permissions are actually needed
  • Applications need to be more transparent on what they are actually doing
  • Descriptions for applications need to really state why the permissions are needed
  • T’s & C’s need to be updated to reflect what they will do with accessing functionality of the devices
  • Users need to be more aware of applications asking for permissions

Maybe its time applications have the ability to change/block certain permissions at installation and upgrade with the trade off of reduced functionality within the application.

Of course at the end of the day its down to use choice as to which applications a user installs on their devices.

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