AIR’s Unrestricted System Access Warning

[Update 2009-07-30: This dialog has been revised for AIR 1.5.2.]

If you’ve ever installed an Adobe AIR-based application–you have installed one, right?–then you’ve probably noticed the installation screen warning that the application you’re installing will have unrestricted system access. I’m frequently asked by developers how they can get rid of this warning, lest it scare off some of their customers. The short answer: you can’t.

When we developed the installation screens for AIR, one of our major goals was to make sure they were informative. Installing an application on your machine is a big deal. You’re trusting code that someone else wrote to not steal or destroy your information. If you’re going to do this, you ought to be well-informed regarding what you’re installing and what risk you’re taking.

The “unrestricted system access” warning is there to make sure you know that, once you install this application, you’re trusting it to behave. No one else is going to keep an eye on it for you.

Some future release of AIR might offer to perform this function for you–that is, restrict the system access of certain applications. With that capability, you might make different decisions about which applications to install. But that’s all theoretical for now. Right now, all application are unrestricted. Even if they don’t need to, say, access the filesystem, they still can. So that warning shows up every time.

How do you know, then, which applications to trust? I recommend making that decision based on the publisher’s identity–the other major piece of information on that first installations screen.