The 11 Weeks of the Android 11 series is diving into “privacy and security” with its third version, which is the third big tentpole of the coming operating systems alongside people and controls. Most of the key features have been announced but with some highlights this week offers a deeper dive.
Some of the biggest privacy changes in Android 11 is about further restricting background location. The OS also reminds users of such access to the app, and Google has noticed that this results in people downgrading the location permission over 75% of the time or denying it outright.
The company claims that most developers can “provide the same user experience by accessing location only when the device is visible to the user.” As a result, all Android apps seeking location access are checked by Google. Applied at the Play Store level, there are very few exceptions, though Google is now giving existing apps until 2021 — rather than November 2 — to comply with and remove unnecessary use of the background location.
Apps — sharing location, emergency / safety — requiring background permission may need to guide users to the full Settings app. An application would first need to ask for the location in the foreground, and then can direct users to open system preferences through a prompt. It turns the entire cycle into “more deliberate action.”
Building on the ability to limit the location to “when the app is in use,” Android 11 adds one-time microphone, camera and location permissions. Google notes that last year, when Android 10 introduced the granular permission option, users selected it for more than half the time. Meanwhile, developers do not need any work on the new option.
Apps targeting Android 11 which have not been opened by a user for a “extended period of time” will have their auto-reset permissions. When this happens, you’ll be alerted and there’s a new “Unused Apps” tab in Settings to manage and delete quickly.
Google also helps developers inspect apps to limit access to sensitive data. New APIs “identify code that wants to access gated permissions even inside SDKs of 3rd party.”
Scoped Storage was a controversial change introduced in Android 10 designed to limit a device’s broad access to files. Developers have been able to opt out, but now it’s mandatory for Android 11 targeted apps. Google has made another move by creating a special permit for file managers and backup apps to manage all files in shared storage. Google Play must review all of those requests manually.
Other changes include more Project Mainline modules, with Google emphasizing how these updates to the Play system helped earlier this year to “quickly correct a crucial vulnerability in the media decoding subsystem” It also continues to work on an Identity Credential API which will allow for data information of driver licenses and other IDs. Google says it’s “working with different government agencies and industry partners to make sure Android 11 is ready for experiences with such a digital identity first.”