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Sep 23

Why install time permissions suck. Why we wanted access to contacts in the Walmart app

Tech, UI / UX, Walmart with tags: Add comments

I have always disliked install time permissions. The user is asked to make a decision up front that:

  • They don’t have any context around
  • They can easily forget
  • They often say “yes” just because they wanted to download the darn thing
  • There is no way to tweak the permissions

addressfromcontacts

This reared its head today. We released a new version of the Walmart Android app. In there we are trying to make the user do as little typing as possible, so when you create a new address there is an option at the top to grab the address from your contacts. There is a good chance that you are sending the goods either to yourself (home, business) or to a friend / family member…. and you may have that info already available.

The problem is, that for us to get that information, we need to blanket ask every user for that access on install. Many users are privacy conscious and I respect that. They should be able to say “thanks, but I don’t want you to have access to my contacts”. We are using a contact picker UI, so the user is explicitly tapping to launch this and selecting the contact, so we don’t need access to anything other than what the user would select. Why do we need READ_CONTACTS?

Why can’t I let those users NOT allow the application access to contacts, but still be able to do everything else? The zero-sum game is nuts.

This shows up all over the shop. If I have an application that happens to have one screen that would be able to help the user by accessing the Geolocation API…. I have to ask for that up front. That screen may be used 0.0000001% of the time, and it just may be aided by that (not required to function).

We need to fix permissions. Would it be so hard to let us say “these permissions are nice to have and can even be on demand” so users can check or uncheck permission there? (this has happened to others too, and we should have realized it would be an issue, so that side of things is our bad :/)

For our users who were scared off when they saw the request for that permission, I am very sorry. We are looking to setup a new build that doesn’t require it at the expense of the convenience feature.

On another note, I am super jazzed at the hard work that went into this release. This app has a bunch of native and Web integration. Our Android and mobile Web teams have worked together to great affect, and although this is just the very tip of the iceberg, it has been great to see!

Remember, if you want to do Android, iOS, or bleeding edge mobile Web development that reaches millions of users globally, please let me know. Join us, the water is warm!

5 Responses to “Why install time permissions suck. Why we wanted access to contacts in the Walmart app”

  1. Eli Grey Says:

    You can also ask for specific permissions in Android apps during run-time, though I’m not sure if it persists over multiple sessions.

  2. Robert Dean Says:

    That is the most annoying thing about both Android and Facebook app permissions. I can’t reject certain permissions based on my personal privacy preferences…..either I get the app or I don’t.

  3. Russell Leggett Says:

    Some day, when object capability model security takes off, permissions will be more fine grained and less up front. Nothing should be required at all if there is a contact picker that grants a single access capability to your application. Here’s hoping Mark Miller’s influence eventually rubs off – at least in web api’s.

  4. Doug Reeder Says:

    Interestingly, on webOS, things are the other way around – any app can display the “People Picker” allowing the user to select a single contact to pass to the app, but there’s no way for an app to gain permission to read all contacts.

  5. Alexander Muse Says:

    We were able to turn this on in iOS without much problem, but our Android users positively freaked out. We gave up and turned off address book access. Thanks for posting – this is an issue that should be resolved

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