Centrelink Mobile App and Permissions Warning - Facebook Rumour

17 Dec 2013 - Article No: 1801. Filed under: Facebook Scams | Facebook Rumour




ATTENTION ALL FRIENDS- Have any of my mummy friends got the centrelink app stored on your phone? If so id delete it now... How many of you have read the update ...app information for centrelink? Did you know when you press accept update your giving centrelink complete access to everything on your phone.... Dont believe me then check my snap shot out..... centrelink also constantly have your gps location so they know where you are they know who you call they know what you txt they know everything...... they have access to absolutely everything that is stored on your phone! I have never been so discusted and stalked in my life! Im sure after reading this your discusted to? We are all entitled to live our life in privacy. Please if you have apps on your phone any apps always read the fine print before downloading and always read the update app information before updating the app im pretty sure your giving all of those apps access to your personal life. Never keep screen shots of your bank account or banking details stored in your phone.


The following message that warns users of the Centrelink mobile app is circulating Facebook, asserting the app needs various permissions, including access to your SMS messages, to work. The messages assert the app has access to "everything stored on your phone".

Centrelink is a government program in Australia that performs a variety of tasks including paying social security and welfare to the unemployed or retired. The App – named Express Plus Families - is designed to efficiently manage your communication with Centrelink, as well as obtain useful information including store locations.

Many aspects of the message are correct, if quite exaggerated. It is true that the app does require a startlingly large number of permissions on your phone to operate correctly, meaning that the image above that shows some of these permissions is probably genuine – (though it will display and be worded differently depending on what phone you have)

However it is worth noting that when reading the permissions an app has, the phone will typically report what an application has the ability to do, and not necessarily what the application is doing.

The Centrelink app performs a variety of tasks, and thus requires certain permissions to work correctly. For example, according to the description on the Google Play website, it needs your personal information to use the Income Calculator –

"YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION: Required to allow you to use the Income Calculator feature. We do not retrieve any details from your calendar."

Again, according to the description, the phone needs access to your camera, but this is so the app has the ability to allow you scan in documents and send them to Centrelink.

The app needs access to your GPS, but according to the website this is to provide details on the nearest Centrelink branch, not to keep track of you.

Also, for the app to work correctly, it needs access to your network communications, where, theoretically, (at least according to Apple), it has the ability to read or delete SMS messages – but as we pointed out above, this doesn’t mean the app WILL do that at all. The assertion that this is to log your calls or see who you call/text is baseless.

Much of the confusion arises with permissions. When an app requires permission for a specific activity, it will often be given a set of permissions (kind of like a package deal!) However the app may not require all of those permissions (e.g. like the ability to delete SMS messages) but because it has theoretically been given the ability to perform the action, the phone will report it as such when detailing the apps permissible activities.

Given that the Centrelink app is a reputable application from the Australian government, we‘d seriously doubt that it would be used for malicious, nefarious or duplicitous purposes, such as tracking your location, reading your texts or logging your calls (not unless you want to delve into crackpot conspiracy theories). What the application actually stores or transmits is detailed on their website.

Of course if you do not trust the app, Centrelink or the developers, regardless of this article or their assurances on the website, then you have the right to uninstall the application from your phone.

Despite the exaggerated urgency of the message, there is some good advice lurking in there – and that is to always check and investigate the permissions of an application if you install it on your phone, especially if you do not know or trust the developer of the app – and it is also wise to never keep screenshots of your banking information on your phone either - it’s just common sense!

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