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Android 12 Privacy Updates: What You Should Know

Posted Jun 3, 2021

Every May, Google announces a new version of Android at its annual Google I/O event. This year, it hosted the conference online and unveiled Android 12, which will launch this fall — currently, the beta 1 version is available to the public. This new OS features a revamped interface, including increased CPU speed and battery efficiency and the enhancement of privacy to make sure users are protected. 

The biggest Android 12 update users will notice gives better transparency around data being accessed by apps while providing controls to make options to secure users’ privacy. If you have any Apple devices, these privacy updates may sound familiar. Android will also minimize the scope of permissions so that apps can only access the data that is necessary for the functioning of the app.

Here are some of the important features that will be updated in Android 12 — some of the following features will be available in beta 2.

Google Advertising ID (GAID)

This fall, the advertising identifier will no longer be available when a user opts out of interest-based advertising or ads personalization. Developers will receive a string of zeros in place of the identifier. This means that Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) on Android will be the same as LAT device IDs for Apple devices prior to App Tracking Transparency (ATT).

Privacy Dashboard

This new privacy dashboard will allow users to check the history of the past 24-hour access to their location, microphone, and camera, and also, users can grant or deny access to individual apps in the dashboard. 

Google encourages developers to review their code, make sure that all accesses have justifiable purposes, and identify potential unexpected data access. Google provides data access auditing APIs in Android 11 to help developers to update their current data access easily.

Privacy dashboard and location access timeline in the past 24 hours.

Microphone and Camera Indicators & Toggles

Users are now able to check the apps accessing their data in real-time and can have better control over the use of their phone’s microphone and camera. They can simply toggle the microphone or camera setting on or off in the Quick Setting bar. This toggle will apply to the entire system across all apps. So even if a user has given an app permission to access the microphone or camera, this toggle will override that permission.

If an app with permissions attempts to access the microphone or camera, but the sensors are turned off, a message will be displayed on the screen to inform the user that the sensors should be turned on in order to use the app’s features. 

Developers should remove any unexpected microphone and camera access in the code and ensure that their app doesn’t access these sensors before the user clicks on a feature that needs access. Android provides app permissions best practices, which provide developers tips on achieving the same functionality without requiring access to such information. 

Microphone and camera indicators and toggles.

Approximate Location

In Android 12, users will have more control over their location data. They will be able to choose either an approximate location or a precise location so that the users can make choices on sharing the details of their location with apps.

Android encourages developers to review their code and request ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION if the features don’t need the user’s precise location. Developers should make sure that the app functions the same when users select the appropriate location.

Location permission request dialog with approximate and precise selection
Location permission request dialog with approximate and precise selection

Clipboard Read Notification

Android 12 will notify users every time an app reads from the user’s clipboard. The recommendation for developers is to only access the clipboard when the user understands why the access occurred.

Nearby Device Permissions

Android 12 will minimize data access by adding new runtime permission for nearby devices that do not use location.

App Hibernation

If an app isn’t used for an extended period of time so that the app goes on hibernation, permission settings will automatically reset, and the system will force-stop the app and reclaim memory, storage, and other temporary resources.

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Yoohyun (Karen) Kim
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