An idea for enhancing transparency in app stores
I saw an article today about apps that send location data to third parties. This isn’t especially new, but it got me thinking. https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/07/a-dozen-popular-iphone-apps-caught-quietly-sending-user-locations-to-monetization-firms/
I’ll preface this to say I’m not really a mobile developer, I have hacked some stuff together in the past, but mostly in support of other things. I also don’t own an app store, so I’m unable to implement this on any sort of broad scale. But I’m thinking of some sort of app-sandbox-whitelisting, that only allows communication to specific endpoints without user consent, and requires user consent for additional, ‘value-added’ services.
I think it would be fairly straightforward, and could be done in a way similar to permission escalations today. Or similar to a browser extension (‘this app requires access to all sites, *.somesite.com, etc):
- Developer publishes application in store
- Developer lists endpoints for outbound network communication, marking them as required/essential for functionality or optional/enhanced functionality
- For required endpoints, developers would need to certify or validate ownership
- Required endpoints would be approved via installing the app, no escalation required. Perhaps even shown in the app store listing
- Optional endpoints would require explicit user consent, similar to accessing photos or location or whatever
- Perhaps some integration with large analytics platforms, like HockeyApp, Firebase, etc, for simplifying app analytics and consent
- Being able to dynamically update endpoints and get just-in-time access consent
I don’t think this is necessarily intended to block traffic, at least not at the beginning, but about giving users enough information to make an informed decision. Just an idea. Tell me what you think!