Did you know that a Flashlight app could be tracking your every move and you wouldn't even know if they were tracking you? Just one year ago, the FTC sued Android app developer, GoldenShores Technologies for letting advertisers use it's flashlight app, Brightest Flashlight Free, as a way to track and sell your information. The commission ruled in favor of the FTC and as a result, GoldenShores was required to remove user data from its database before the ruling, as well as, create a Privacy Statement letting users know that there data might be sent to advertisers. You might say, "Well, great! None of my information is in their database anymore!" However, they didn't say if the advertising companies' databases were also cleared or not. So your identity could still be floating in mid air to these advertisers.
Since this ruling however, there are now more flashlight apps in the Google Play Store that have been popping up that have way too many permissions added to them. Just look at the requirements that Brightest Flashlight Free claims they must have access to on your phone in order for you to use their app (see image below).
Keep in mind, this is a Flashlight app and it wants access to where you are 24/7, it wants access to all your Photos and Videos (including the ability to modify or delete their contents), your camera and microphone, and what WiFi connections you've connected to. You thought that was bad, oh no there's more (see below)...
In addition, it wants access to your phone's identity (phone number, serial number, etc.) as well as the ability to have full access to your own network, reading your Home screen settings and shortcuts AND install and uninstalling shortcuts to your phone. All of this, for a Flashlight app. A flashlight app should NOT under any circumstances be required to have any of the permissions I just mentioned to work. It only should need access to the flashlight, and the flashlight only!
Normally, I'm the guy who doesn't really care if people see my data as long as it gives me services in return (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, etc). However, if a service wants to collect my information solely for the purpose of collecting my information, then that service or app shouldn't have my business and it shouldn't have your business.
Fortunately, there are solutions. If you have any iOS version, you shouldn't worry too much about this issue. Apple has a tight control over what apps you can install and what these apps have access to. However if you have iOS 7 or above, you can access the flashlight by opening Control Center. You can do this by swiping from the bottom to the top of your device and selecting the icon that looks like a flashlight (no app required).
On Android 5.0 Lollipop, swipe from top to bottom to access your notifications and then swipe top to bottom again to access your Quick Settings and turn on the Flashlight feature (no app required).
If you have a device that is running Android 4.4 or below, then all you have to do is before you click Accept on a Flashlight app, check the Permissions before you approve it. If the app requests your Location or for Network access, then it's probably a good idea to stay clear of it.
If you would like to read the entire FTC article, you can do so by clicking here.