In addition to launching the Android 11 Developer Preview, Google announced a plan to address Android apps that request the user's location in the background. Just as we saw in Google's pushback against apps that use the accessibility APIs for things not related to accessibility, Google will expand power over the Play Store and manually check apps that request location data in the background.
Google writes about the new policy: "When we looked more closely at the use of the background location, we found that many of the apps that requested the background location didn't really need it. In fact, many of these apps could offer the same thing." User experience by accessing the location only when the app is visible to the user. "The company says that apps in the Play Store will soon be rated by people to determine whether the apps actually need the background location permissions they requested. Google sets the following criteria for requesting the background location:
Later this year, we'll update the Google Play policy to require developers to get approval if they want to access location data in the background. Factors that are considered include:
- Does the function provide the user with a clear value?
- Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
- Is the function important for the main purpose of the app?
- Can you deliver the same experience without accessing the location in the background?
All apps are rated based on the same factors, including apps created by Google, and all submissions are reviewed by team members.
The blog post also lists a timeline for the new location rules:
We expect the following schedule for this policy introduction. Subject to changes.
- April: official update of the Google Play policy with background location
- can: Developers can use the Play Console to request feedback on their use case with an estimated response time of 2 weeks, depending on the volume
- 3rd August: All new apps that are sent to Google Play and access the background location must be approved
- November 2: All existing apps that request a background location must be approved or removed from Google Play
Apps can still request your location in the foreground, i.e. if it is the currently visible app. The new policy only applies to apps that request your location when you can't see them. These can be used to secretly track the user's location.
All Android apps must request Location permission to view the user's location. Even without these changes, users can click Deny at any time and send no information to the app. This step is intended to act against apps that unnecessarily request authorization. In Android 10, Google added a more restricted option to location permissions, which users can only use to give their app access to their permissions when it is running in the foreground. In Android 11, this setting can be restricted even further with a new authorization area that allows one-time access to the storage location.
Google says that even "apps created by Google" will be subject to these new requirements. However, many of the background requirements for location give clear access to features in Google Maps, e.g. B. Continually sharing your location with a friend. Google also makes the base operating system that you can use to constantly track your location in the background using Google Play Services. This data is stored on the Internet as a "location history" and Google has recently gotten into hot water because the controls for this feature are not as clear as possible. In response to the Associated Press reporting on location history, Google redesigned its location controls with clearer descriptions. In addition to being able to turn it off completely, the company added auto-delete options to remove data after a certain amount of time.