Oct 06, 2014

Which Android flashlight apps steal your data?

Flashlight apps are apparently a favorite for data thieves, and there has even been an FTC action brought against the makers of the “Brightest Flashlight” app for stealing user data and selling it to advertisers. Are there any safe flashlight apps for Android?


I think that these apps are being singled out unfairly, probably because of the Brightest Flashlight app that you mentioned. Often times the permissions requested are needed for the app to work properly and has nothing to do with data theft. Also, if they are ad supported, that requires certain permissions as well. There was a recent post on Reddit by doink123, the dev who actually made the Tiny Flashlight app, and he attempted to debunk some of the misinformation. The entire post can be found HERE, but the most relevant section is below:

"Since most of you guys are not developers, it's completely normal to not understand the permissions and wonder how they are used. Here's a detailed overview of all permissions in my app. You will see a similar list in almost all other flashlight apps, because a feature rich app cannot go without this minimal set of permissions.

  • Take pictures and video (this is the CAMERA permission). Used to activate the camera flash.

  • Control flashlight. I'm still supporting Android 1.5 and 1.6 and back in the old days on some devices (moto backflip) the camera flash was activated via a private API, which required this permission.

  • Full network access - used for showing ads from Google's Admob

  • View network connections - again for Google's Admob. This permission allows the ads code to detect whether you are on wifi or data. If you are on data the ad requests will be reduced to save you bandwidth.

  • Control vibration - some users want the device to vibrate, when they toggle the light

  • Prevent the device from sleeping - very important permission for a flashlight app. In my app you can turn on the camera flash and then hit the power button of the device to turn off the screen. It's very handy, because you can hold your device like a real flashlight without hitting any buttons on the screen. Without this permission, the device will fall in "deep" sleep when you hit the power button and the light would turn off. Also, if you are using the screen light you don't want your device to turn off while you are doing something important."


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