A major upside to modern packaging formats like Snap and Flatpak is that they give us granular control over app permissions.
Now, a KDE developer plans wants to make it easier for users to manage those permissions through the Discover software app on the KDE Plasma desktop.
For those not familiar with it, Discover is a graphical tool that allows users to browse, search, and install applications from a range of different software backends, including Canonical’s Snap Store, and community-based Flathub.
In a blog post summarising the KDE community’s Google Summer of Code 2022 projects Johnny Jazeix explains: “…Suhaas Joshi will work on permission management for Flatpak and Snap applications in Discover [to allow users to] change permissions granted to an application (e.g. file system, network, and so on) and also make it easier to review them.”
This last point, reviewing permissions, is a key one.
At present Snap apps listed in Discover don’t say which permissions they need to run. In tackling this omission, Discover users will be able to see which permissions a Snap app needs before they go to the trouble of installing it.
And being aware of permissions is important.
For example, let’s say I want to install a new drawing app but notice, when attempting to, that it requires unrestricted network access. That could set alarm bells ringing — well, unless it’s got cloud-enabled features included, of course!
By allow us to see permissions before installation we are better informed about the software we’re trying. Also, it’s consistent; upfront permission info is standard in many other software stores and platforms on Linux and beyond.
This is a Google Summer of Code project so we’ll likely get to hear more about the progress being made on implementing this welcome feature as work gets underway.