Google is planning to improve protection on Phone location data by creating a new review process to verify if applications on android actually need access to background location data.
The new change which is part of the privacy crackdown on location tracking in Android 11, means that all new apps on Google Play store that request background access to location data will need to pass through an app review process.
Over 1,000 Android apps harvest data from Phones
Over the last few years, it has been revealed that some tech companies are mishandling and selling user’s data without their consent. This sparked increased scrutiny on tech giants like Google and Facebook for their poor privacy and security policies.
In android phones, apps collect user data like location using trackers embedded in its codes. When users consent to share data with an app, they are also allowing the app to collect your data through trackers.
In 2018, a study found that 55% of trackers in about 160,000 apps studied tried to extract user data. To grant users more control over their data, Google provided the “While app is in use” to restrict access to user data in its Android 10 update.
It is also planning to offer even more control with temporary “one-time” permission to sensitive data. This feature was first launched by Apple in its iOS 13. It will also be adopted in the upcoming Android 11.
Restricting access to background location data
In 2019, researchers from the International Computer Science Institute discovered that more than 1,325 Android apps on the Google Play store were still gathering sensitive data like locations from devices after users restricted access.
Among all the data collected from users, location data is probably the most popular as marketing companies are always in search of customer geographic locations.
Many of the apps that requested background location on android don’t actually need it. In fact, many of them could provide the same user experience by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user.
For instance, some loan or financial apps request access to your locations or photo gallery which is not needed for the primary purpose of the app. Some even make accessing location data a prerequisite to using the app, thereby taking away the choice provided by Google’s user permission.
Following this discovery, Google has revealed that this new measure will prevent misuse of location data. When the new review rolls out, all apps including Google apps, will be evaluated against factors like if the app’s features deliver clear values to the user and if users expect the app to access their location data in the background.
It will also check if the feature is important to the primary purpose of the app as well as if the app can deliver the same experience without accessing locations in the background.
Although the review process isn’t due to officially start until August, once it kicks off Google will serve as the first point of security to prevent malicious apps from gaining access to user data on android.