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Using Visualizations to Enhance Users' Understanding of App Activities on Android Devices

Chika Eze‚ Jason R.C. Nurse and Jassim Happa


The ever-increasing number of third-party applications developed for Android devices has resulted in a growing interest in the secondary activities that these applications perform and how they affect a user's privacy. Unfortunately, users continue to install these applications without any concrete knowledge of the breadth of these activities; hence, they have little insight into the sensitive information and resources accessed by these applications. In this paper, we explore users' perception and reaction when presented with a visual analysis of Android applications activities and their security implications. This study uses interactive visual schemas to communicate the effect of applications activities in order to support users with more understandable information about the risks they face from such applications. Through findings from a user-based experiment, we demonstrate that when visuals diagrams about application activities are presented to users, they became more aware and sensitive to the privacy-intrusiveness of certain applications. This awareness and sensitivity stems from the fact that some of these applications were accessing a significant number of resources and sensitive information, and transferring data out of the devices, even when they arguably had little reason to do so.

Journal of Wireless Mobile Networks‚ Ubiquitous Computing‚ and Dependable Applications (JoWUA)