Android Permissions: User Attention, Comprehension, and Behavior

Elizabeth Ha
Serge Egelman
Ariel Haney
Erika Chin
David Wagner
Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security(2012)


Android's permission system is intended to inform users about the risks of installing applications. When a user installs an application, he or she has the opportunity to review the application's permission requests and cancel the installation if the permissions are excessive or objectionable. We examine whether the Android permission system is effective at warning users. In particular, we evaluate whether Android users pay attention to, understand, and act on permission information during installation. We performed two usability studies: an Internet survey of 308 Android users, and a laboratory study where we interviewed and observed 25 Android users. Study participants displayed low attention and comprehension rates: both the Internet survey and laboratory study found that 17% of people paid attention to permissions during installation, and only 3% of Internet survey respondents could correctly answer all three permission comprehension questions. This indicates that current Android permission warnings do not help most users make correct security decisions. However, a notable minority of users demonstrated both awareness of permission warnings and reasonable rates of comprehension. We present recommendations for improving user attention and comprehension, as well as identify open challenges.

Research Areas