Android 4.3 has hidden selective app permission controls
Back in May, during a Google I/O event, we heard Google discuss the idea of giving users more finely-grained control over app permissions, letting you install an app but selectively block certain access, like refusing to let a game with no apparent need read your text messages. We’d seen CyanogenMod experiment with something like that in the past, but it ultimately backed away due to technical issues and developer opposition. Would Google actually follow-through on the idea? With Android 4.3 now here, users have discovered that such a framework has already been put in place.
The hidden feature goes by the name App Ops, and though Google doesn’t make it easy to take advantage of it just yet, it’s all there, hidden away under the surface. If you’re running Android 4.3, you can download the third-party app linked-to below in order to simplifying getting access to App Ops settings.
Pull up an app, and you can disable or enable individual permissions. It’s a little wonky, though – sometimes it only detects permissions after an app takes advantage of them, so a newly-installed app will show an incomplete list. Perhaps that’s part of why this system isn’t a more visible part of Android 4.3. Other possible problems include a lack of any notifications when App Ops settings are responsible for apps glitching up.
That said, it appears to be fully functional, and actually work rather well (aside from apps getting fussy when they can’t behave as intended). If you’ve upgraded to 4.3, you can start playing around with App Ops settings, and see for yourself.