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A Large Scale Study of Users Behaviors, Expectations and Engagement with Android Permissions

Weicheng Cao
Chunqiu Xia
David Lie
Lisa Austin
Usenix Security Symposium, Usenix, https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity21 (2021)


We conduct a global study on the behaviors, expectations and engagement of 1,719 participants across 10 countries and regions towards Android application permissions. Participants were recruited using mobile advertising and used an application we designed for 30 days. Our app samples user behaviors (decisions made), rationales (via in-situ surveys), expectations, and attitudes, as well as some app provided explanations. We study the grant and deny decisions our users make, and build mixed effect logistic regression models to illustrate the many factors that influence this decision making. Among several interesting findings, we observed that users facing an unexpected permission request are more than twice as likely to deny it compared to a user who expects it, and that permission requests accompanied by an explanation have a deny rate that is roughly half the deny rate of app permission requests without explanations. These findings remain true even when controlling for other factors. To the best of our knowledge, this may be the first study of actual privacy behavior (not stated behavior) for Android apps, with users using their own devices, across multiple continents.