Privacy is an increasingly important concern for many users of mobile devices like phones and tablets, and a lot of people are rightfully concerned about how companies can store and use their data.
In response, big brands like Google have been working on the privacy features for their platforms in recent years, and the upcoming Android 12 Beta 2 release is set to include some very interesting privacy features.
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Android 12’s Privacy Features
At the I/O 2021 event, Google revealed the new set of privacy features for the upcoming Android 12 release. The new features appear to be inspired by many similar features that already exist on the Apple platform, with a couple of interesting additions.
With these features, it seems that Google is trying to make things more transparent for its users, allowing people to see clearly what sorts of data are being gathered by the apps they use and have greater control over whether or not this data can be collected and how it may be used.
So without further ado, let’s now take a look at some of the newly announced features to see what each one has to offer.
The Privacy Dashboard
This is perhaps the biggest new feature of them all and it’s one that, for now, will be exclusive to the Android platform, as there’s nothing quite like it over on Apple devices.
The Privacy Dashboard of Android 12 will serve as a central hub where users can get an in-depth view of the apps they have installed and how those apps can access their information.
When you open the dashboard, you’ll see a summary page, tracking how many apps have had access to your phone’s camera, mic, and location in the previous 24 hours.
The dashboard then allows you to dig deeper, clicking on tabs for each permission to see a full timeline of which apps used which parts of your phone and when they did so.
You’ll get to see how long the apps accessed that part of your phone and whether they did so while the app was running in the foreground of your device or while it was running in the background.
The dashboard covers all apps installed on your device, including Google’s proprietary services too.
This feature is a small extra part of the Privacy Dashboard. When using the dashboard, you’ll see a little “Manage Permission” button appear on the timeline page.
You can click on this to get instant access to the permission settings for each of your apps, revoking certain permissions as desired.
It’s basically a simple shortcut that lets you block certain apps from accessing your phone’s features if you aren’t happy with how they’re being used.
Microphone and Camera
We’re also seeing a new feature dedicated solely to microphone and camera access for your apps.
Now, with this feature, users will actually see a green icon in the top right part of the screen whenever the phone’s microphone or camera sensors are being used. You can tap on that icon to find out which app is using those sensors.
This is a really important feature, as many users are unaware of when an app might be subtly accessing mic and camera permissions in the background.
Upon clicking on the icon and learning about which app is using the mic and camera, users will also get the option to revoke access to that app if they aren’t happy about it using the mic/camera.
What’s more, Android 12 offers an additional quick setting to block camera and mic access for all apps at any time, which might be important if you’re in a business meeting or in a sensitive situation and don’t want any apps accessing your phone’s features.
It doesn’t matter what kind of app you’re using, whether it’s a map app, a weather app, a college paper help app, or something different, Android 12 will let you control how those apps use your phone’s location features.
Users will be able to choose from different levels of location permissions – “approximate” and “precise” – to decide how specific each app gets to be when it comes to finding out where you are.
It’s clear to see that Google is hearing the feedback of its users and recognizing the need for improved privacy features across the Android platform.
The announced changes for Android 12 are encouraging, but for now, Google is still playing catch-up with Apple, as many of these new features already exist on iPhone.
It’s good progress for Android users, but more will need to be done in the years ahead to reassure users who fear for their privacy.