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An Inquiry into Perception and Usage of Smartphone Permission Models

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Trust, Privacy and Security in Digital Business (TrustBus 2018)

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Initially, Android and iOS took different approaches to protect users’ privacy from third-party apps by means of permissions. The old Android permission model has been repeatedly criticized for its poor usability, whereas the runtime permission model of iOS received relatively low attention in the usable security community. Since October 2015, Android also implements the runtime permission model. We compare perception and usefulness of the respective permission models by three groups: users of old Android, runtime Android and iOS permissions. To this end, we conducted a survey with over 800 respondents. The results indicate that both permission types are reportedly utilized by users for decision making regarding app usage. However, runtime permissions in Android and iOS are perceived as more useful than the old Android permissions. Users also show a more positive attitude towards the runtime permission model independently of the smartphone operating system.

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  1. 1.

    Previous iOS versions asked for runtime permissions for location data, but most other data types could be accessed freely by the apps.

  2. 2.

    “Reportedly” means that we ask users how they utilize permissions, but do not measure their actual behavior, which is out of scope of this study.

  3. 3.

    We were concerned that users that recently switched from Android to iOS or vice versa might confound both permission models in their answers, and thus might not be able to provide consistent answers regarding permissions. However, this threat to validity was later mitigated by the data analysis, see Sect. 3.3.

  4. 4.

    We took special care to guide participants through the process of finding out the version of their operating system, accounting for different interfaces of various Android manufacturers.

  5. 5.

    The study was conducted in October 2016, such that users that have been using OS since 2014 have more than 1,5 years of experience with it.


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Correspondence to Lena Reinfelder .

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Reinfelder, L., Schankin, A., Russ, S., Benenson, Z. (2018). An Inquiry into Perception and Usage of Smartphone Permission Models. In: Furnell, S., Mouratidis, H., Pernul, G. (eds) Trust, Privacy and Security in Digital Business. TrustBus 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 11033. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-98384-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-98385-1

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