There hasn't been a way to run Android apps with reliable and real privacy controls. Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and higher versions take a big step into the right direction as it lets users install apps, denying attempts of some questionable apps to collect user data at the same time.
Android was built from the ground up designed to have a strongly enforced, sophisticated system of per-app permission. However, many privacy-sensitive permissions are confusing and poorly delineated. With the way the operating system and the Google Play Store work, users won't be able to install an app without saying "yes" to the app's demand to read its address books, track the locations and even get the phone numbers of IMEI.
This is the biggest problem with previous Android devices, which is to install an app is an all-or-nothing deal and users have very few ways to protect themselves against the apps they've installed or even see what these apps are really up to.
Earlier, it was even an improvement on its biggest rival, Apple iOS, which didn't have a permission feature. After various privacy scandals, Apple started forcing apps to ask user permission to collect data such as address books, location and photos. Because of this, iPhone's app privacy options have been way ahead of Android for the past 2 years.
The release of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean finally changes this and added awesome new features to improve user privacy protection. Users can unlock this functionality by installing any tool like App Ops Launcher.
When the user runs this tool, he can easily control most of the privacy-threatening permissions his apps previously obtained. For example, if a user wants to install Shazam without it having to track the user's location or install SideCar without having to let it read the address book, it is now possible through App Ops.
Although users say it's still incomplete and long overdue, the App Ops launcher is a big improvement in Android privacy, which already has a bad reputation for its junky app gallery. Users who want to limit those intrusive apps should definitely install Android 4.3 and take advantage of this tool. Kudos to Google and the Android team for giving users control of the data others can snatch from them.
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