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CMU app helps manage your apps

| Sunday, July 10, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

There finally is an app to help you manage your apps.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a mobile app that simplifies the process of adjusting the privacy settings on your apps.

It will be released this summer for Android users with rooted phones. Developers hope to develop a version for all Android devices.

“We want to make this available as broadly as we can,” said Norman Sadeh, a CMU professor of computer science who helped develop the personalized privacy assistant app.

The typical Android user has 50 to 100 apps. The typical app has three to five permissions, or privacy settings, in which users decide whether to share their location or grant an app access to their contact list.

Do the math, and that comes to at least 150 settings.

“No user is actually able to manage all of those settings,” Sadeh said. “So that's where technology comes into play.”

The app recommends privacy settings based on a user's response to a set of questions. Sadeh and his team of researchers found that users accepted about 80 percent of the app's recommendations.

Florian Schaub, a CMU postdoctoral fellow who collaborated on the project, called the results “very encouraging.”

“You have so many connected devices in your home that want to talk with each other,” Schaub said. “It just becomes really challenging to keep all these settings straight. Our research shows there's really an opportunity and potential to automate some of these positions.”

Researchers conducted the study last summer. They presented their findings last month at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security in Denver. Their paper was given the top award at the conference.

CMU developed the app with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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