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Privacy and permission friendly apps

I am a strong privacy proponent. If you’ve read my previous articles here at IzzyOnDroid, you can hardly have missed that. Indeed, that was one of the reasons I’ve built this site: to make it easier to find not only the best rated app for a purpose, but also the least invasive to your privacy. In this article, I will give you some hints on how that is supposed to work, and which little helpers I’ve established for that. And of course I try to cover several related topics with my articles. Those specifically concerning privacy you easily can find using the privacy tag.

But that’s only one part of this article. Speaking about privacy, warning about privacy issues with other people’s apps/services, and calling you to more privacy cautions, of course I cared for that as well when building this site. That’s the part I will start with. After the first ”privacy break”.

Content of this article

Laptop Privacy SweaterBig DataFacebook privacy

How does IzzyOnDroid respect your privacy?

I’m not only “talking privacy”, I’m practicing it. So privacy isn’t restricted to this sites content, but also to how it works and respects your privacy while you’re using it. It doesn’t collect private data from you, and won’t give third parties chances doing so if you don’t want it.

This site doesn’t use cookies

No Flash Cookies or LocalStorage, not even normal HTTP cookies are used1 – and what’s not there cannot be “tracked”. “Privacy first” means to only use such things when something cannot work without. And up to now, there was nothing really requiring this kind of “feature”, so I see no reason to raise suspicion by using it.

This site doesn’t use fancy “like”, “+1”, or “share” buttons

All those fancy “social buttons” have a huge draw-back when it comes to privacy: to use them requires loading of JavaScript from the corresponding sites. Noone except those running them can tell for sure what the effect of them would be: loading the script reveals not only your IP address to that site, but also a digital fingerprint of your browser to the site hosting it, which can be quite an intrusion into your privacy as it makes you trackable.2 This and the fact I’m not using any of those “social networks” myself (with the exception of Twitter) are the reasons I decided against using them.

This site doesn’t load javascript from “elsewhere”

As pointed out in the previous paragraph, doing so would open your privacy to third parties – so no fancy libraries from elsewhere. This site is not about games, fancy design, and having fun – but giving information. No need for such “enhancements”. Well, there’s one single exception currently: the Flattr button on the left (more on that later). It’s not strictly required for functionality (even the button itself should work without the JavaScript behind it), but I wanted the information it displays (to encourage you using it ;) ). Yes, above said also applies here – so if you prefer your “absolute privacy” over that, I bear no grudge with you if you disable it. I will even give you advice how it can be done: I strongly recommend you the use of a browser addon like NoScript. Then it’s up to you from which sites JavaScript loading is permitted. By default, this addon blocks it all – only white-list sites you trust. Alternatively (or additionally), take a look at Ghostery, which blocks a load of beacons, trackers, and more.

This site itself also makes a little use of JavaScript. Not that essential that it wouldn’t work without, so feel free to block it here as well. The only thing which would stop working then is the additional information loaded when you click on an apps name (try here to see what it’s about: Titanium Backup). Help pages would no longer open in a separate window when you click the Help icon, but load in your current window/tab. But that’s all.

This site doesn’t use “ad banners”

I know, I am an idiot idealist offering all this information for free, not asking money for the time and hard work invested to create site and content. I’m often asked why I don’t place ad banners. Answer is quite clear: first for the reasons described above, and second because I find them distracting. Leaving it to an ad company what is displayed might yield wierd results. And I’ve seen sites overdoing it, where one now has to search hard to find the real content among all those ads.

Wait: So what is that on the lefthand side of each page? Yes, I in fact wrote my own “ad framework”. Where I select and define what’s being displayed. Which first are my books of course  :D My goal was to only have ads when they can count as part of the content. So feel free to look for diapers (no shit on this site, I hope). You will find replacement batteries advertized when the app list is about battery tools or battery savers, which is what I’d count "additional helpful information" (if you cannot save enough juice to make your day, get a backup) – this is how it should work. Hope you’ll reward my effords ;)

Ooops: This site stores images in the cloud?

Oh, you noticed. OK, no hiding place, I’ll have to confess: Yes, this site uses images stored in “the cloud” (read: “on someone else’s computer”). You might also have noticed the sources being pointed out. I frequently pick images from Flickr, Wikimedia, and some other sites where people made them public for free use3. Giving credits to the sources in these cases permits me to “deep-link” them – which makes site maintenance easier for me.

Other pictures include screenshots from apps, which are also available publically. And the one or other creation of my own which I don’t mind to be “public” ;)

100 procent privacysticker at Bootlab bathroomPRIVACY: @chassyofcricket

How does IzzyOnDroid help you finding the right apps?

The app-lists

App Category
App-Lists: Category view

There are many app lists around in the Internet. But, forgive my proud, none like the app-lists at IzzyOnDroid. True, some markets permit you to list either “apps” or “games”, some even give raw categories (please: what is “productivity” supposed to mean? and which tools would you look for in a category “tools”?). But be honest: looking for an app for a specific purpose, this is not really helpful.

Here at IzzyOnDroid, categories are much more specific: if you’re on the hunt for e.g. a Twitter app, you don’t have to check the entire “network” (or would that be “productivity”?) section. It’s a networking app alright, but there’s a corresponding sub-category dedicated to Twitter Clients. Which should already help you narrowing down your search. Even the category itself is split into groups for specific purposes. For example, the category NetworkAdmin-ToolsDiagnosis has Speedtests, Routing, and more. Again narrowed down.

Next thing, as the screenshot to the right shows, the lists are ordered by criteria you can easily understand: Rating and votes (5). And each app has its “most relevant data” displayed along: number of permissions (6), whether there are possible concerns (6), on which market it’s available (7), and often also links to reviews or other relevant informations on the app (8). Plus detailed listings of permissions and concerns when you click its name (9-12). To find out more, there’s always a help icon available at the top of each page (1), looking like this: Help. Just click it here for more details on this topic, I’ve linked the icon for you.

The app-search

Search Results
App Search Results

The app search shall specifically help you finding “permission friendly apps”, though it can serve other purposes as well. It allows you to select one or more categories to search in (up to 5, sub-categories are automatically included), one or more permissions, the “search mode” (whether the wanted app should have or not have the selected permissions), and the search order. By default, when leaving the latter two untouched, it will search vor apps in the selected categories which do not request any of the marked permissions, and present the results ordered by permissions – with the “least hungry” app first (see screenshot to the right). Your search criteria will be shown along (1-3), and the app details work as described above.

This is unique to IzzyOnDroid – I didn’t find it elsewhere (which was why I set this up). As proud as I am for it, I’d rather wish the app markets would offer such a feature directly, to cover all apps. As of this writing, the app lists cover a little more than 10.000 hand-selected apps. If you want to search for permissions on all of the apps on all markets (or even a single market alone), you will have a hard time. If you want to do so for apps you’ve already installed on your device, I’ve got a fitting app-list for you: Permission Checker

But one more hint on permissions: it’s not their “bare count” what tells you about them being invasive or not, it’s always the context. If an app shall do many things, it simply needs many permissions. Let’s take our most hungry app for example: Webkey requests no less than 125 permissions. The “silver medal” here goes to EverythingMe Launcher with 58 permissions. A huge difference! But does that mean Webkey is more invasive? If it were, we’d long heard about: it’s open-source, and a permission count like that is screaming for people to investigate the code. Webkey simply is supposed to cover a load of tasks, basically letting you remote-control almost everything on your device from your PC. So how to tell “by permission”? If you have two apps offering the same feature set, you might compare the “raw count”.4 But even then, count is mostly an indicator only, reminding you to take a closer look. Use your Common Sense together with the explanation on permissions here on this very site. If a simple flashlight app requires access to your contact list, or a music player to your calendars: those are things that should definitely raise your suspicions ;)

Articles

Articles
Articles (mobile view)

Every now and then, there’s an article introducing specific apps. Or a more generic article recommends some apps on a specific topic. Being a one-man-show, there are not multiple articles released per day (two per week is already a good count, but don’t be surprised if there are two weeks without a single post); I rather try to go for quality than for quantity, and my time also is somehow limited (remember, I’m not being payed for it, so I have to make my living on something else). Watch out for articles using the apps tag, and especially those additionally being tagged review. Or the ones using both tags.

The screenshot to the right shows the “mobile view” of the article list from the corresponding help page. You see you can browse it by tag (4), have the articles listed (2) by publication date (3), can switch to other language variants (when available; usually, articles are published in German and English), and even have an RSS feed (1) to inform you when a new article was released.

Help pages

Did I already mention this site also includes help pages? Whenever you think you got lost, or might miss some “easter egg” (like being told the supported Android versions for an app when hovering over its name), just hit the help icon on the upper-right of the page. If you think there’s still something missing: I’m always open for feedback.

Stop Watching Uswear it on your T-Shirt?Yes We Scan!

So where/how to “like”, “+1”, give feedback, or say “thank you”?

No comment functions,5 no “like” or “+1” buttons – so how to give feeback, show you like this site (or a specific post on it), or express your thankfulness?

Feedback

I already wrote a couple of times (in this article and across the site) I appreciate your feedback, so there must be a way (or I am a statistician6). Let’s see:

Flattr

Flattr is a so-called “Micro-Donation service”. You can put money on your own “account”, setup a monthly budget (e.g. 2 Euro, or more) – and then happily press all the “Flattr-Buttons”, wherever you feel the content’s worth it. At the end of the month, your monthly budget minus 10% for Flattr itself will be devided by the numbers of “Flattrs” you’ve made – and each “flattered artist” gets an equal share of it. IzzyOnDroid is not the only website using it7, many more are using Flattr. Now that you know about it check for the Flattr symbol on other sites to see if you might wish to use it to honor the work of “creators” offering you their work for free. Even if it were just a few cents: It’s the act that counts. And it’s motiviation for the creators.

Partners

As I referred to the Impressum before, you might have noticed at the end of it: this site takes part in Amazons partner program. My also afore-mentioned self-made “ad framework” also picks articles from their (German) catalog, if they fit the topic of a page. Whenever you click such an ad and buy something (not necessarily the clicked product) within the next 30 minutes, I get a tiny “refund” for having brought you there.8 As almost everyone buys something at Amazon from time to time, this should be a way to support this site which most of you can go.

Spread the word!

That shouldn’t be too hard a thing to do: if you like this site, why not telling others about it? After all, if it’s helpful for you, it’s probably useful for your friends as well. And the more visitors, the higher the likeliness that one of them hits a button. Plus good visitor counts for sure give me some motivation to produce more content, or add useful features to this site  :D

What else?

Thanks for reading this page to the end! I hope you’ve liked it. As said, feedback welcome – and you’re welcome to check back with this site anytime. Glad having you around!

appsinternaprivacy


  1. If you still get a cookie request claiming to be from this site, check its name and “google” it. It’s 100% not from here. Most likely a proxy on the way has “injected” it (I was really surprised when that happened to me once!). ↩︎

  2. For details, please see e.g. Browser Fingerprints: A Big Privacy Threat, anonymous browser fingerprinting (shows they are 89% unique, and I Know A LOT About Your Web Browser and Computer). In short: if all websites would provide “like” buttons, Facebook could tell exactly which user visits which pages – including when, how often, how long… ↩︎

  3. Note the CC in the copyright remarks: Creative Commons licenses are a good way to share content. My books are using a CC license as well, so you can freely share them, quote them, use them – as long as you name the original author (“BY”) and don’t do so commercially (“NC”, no commercial). Often you will also see an “SA” (share-alike) in the license abbreviation (e.g. for my books: CC-BY-NC-SA). That basically means, if you use parts of it, your work must use the same license. ↩︎

  4. still, the dev might have mistakenly selected some of them. The API doc is full of errors and misleading information, even naming permissions which simply don’t exist ↩︎

  5. Say thanks to the spammers and trolls; my time’s to valuable to me for dealing with those. ↩︎

  6. There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. (Wikipedia↩︎

  7. my free e-book server uses it as well as many others, find more in the Flattr Catalog ↩︎

  8. If you think I’m getting richt by that: nice dream. Currently, it doesn’t even cover my server costs – not to speak about any compensation for my work being done… ↩︎

2014-08-29