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Android apps guzzling background location data face Google Play probe

Google is once again pledging to give Android users more control over their location data with Android 11 and a new Google Play update.

Yesterday, Google revealed Android 11 will introduce new consumer-facing tools enabling users to grant one-time temporary access to applications, just like Apple does in iOS. Now, in an Android developers blog post, the company has explained the thinking behind the move.

The company writes: “Users consistently tell us that they want more control over their location data and that we should take every precaution to prevent misuse. Since the beginning of Android, users have needed to grant explicit permission to any app that wants access to their location data.”

Google’s Krish Vitaldevara, Director of Product Management Trust & Safety, Google Play, goes on to explain that Android 10 improved things by allowing users to specify if an app should only access the location when the app is in use. Now, in Android 11, comes the next step.

He added: “Now in Android 11, we’re giving users even more control with the ability to grant a temporary “one-time” permission to sensitive data like location. When users select this option, apps can only access the data until the user moves away from the app, and they must then request permission again for the next access.”

Vitaldevara also says a forthcoming update to the Google Play Store will work toward preventing unnecessary access to background location. That’s because, as it turns out, many of the apps that requested background location access didn’t actually need it.

Developers will soon need approval form Google to even request background access to the user’s location, based on the following parameters:

  • Does the feature deliver clear value to the user?
  • Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
  • Is the feature important to the primary purpose of the app?
  • Can you deliver the same experience without accessing location in the background?

The process begin in April, with apps requesting the background access needing to be approved by November.

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