Almost all mobile carriers provide their customers with smartphone apps to view their account information. The apps let users view their usage history, pay bills, manage family members, etc. Some apps even go into detail about the phone, letting users view vital information about their device such as battery use and storage space.
Verizon just updated their My Verizon app yesterday and it includes a number of new permissions. The app now includes permissions for receiving and sending SMS messages, Bluetooth pairing, reading battery statistics, viewing all running apps, etc. The app also provides the usual bug fixes and provides a new splash screen.
While technically this means that yes, Verizon can now read all of your text messages and log all the apps you’re using, they’re almost certainly not using it for that. Remember that if you’re a Verizon customer, all of your text messages flow through their network anyway, so if they really wanted to read them, they already can without this app.
What’s likely happening here is that Verizon is preparing their app to be a more complete one-stop-shop for users to get information about both their account and their phone. The app could help users find particularly battery hungry apps and kill them, for example, or use the new SMS permissions to send support texts straight to Verizon customer service.
It’s worth noting that Verizon is not alone here. T-Mobile’s MyAccount app has nearly all of these same permissions for SMS, Bluetooth, running apps, etc. and even has further permissions for modifying the call log, clearing app cache data, reading log data, and modifying contacts. AT&T’s myAT&T app has considerably less permissions, the most notable being reading contacts, reading the call log, and reading account data.
So while Verizon certainly isn’t alone in giving their apps hefty permissions (T-Mobile actually has more permissions), this could still be a troubling development for some users. If you’re a Verizon user and you aren’t comfortable with these new permissions, you simply don’t have to update the app.
You can also uninstall or disable the app entirely if you don’t like it. Most carriers provide simple codes for finding out your usage information. On Verizon, you can go to the dialer and dial #DATA and hit call to instantly find out your data usage, or dial #MIN to get your minutes. While not as convenient as the app, it is a simple way to get the information you need without using the app.
So what do you think? Are you a Verizon user who is concerned about these new permissions? Do you plan to update the app?