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Android 12 will bring these new security features

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Here's what privacy-enhancing features Android 12 will bring
This Tuesday, we found out a whole lot more about what to expect from the upcoming Android 12, especially when it comes to staying safe and protected. 

One could say that Google has been keeping the popularity of Apple's security-focused iOS 14.5 update in the back of their mind as they planned their own, and they've got quite a few aces up their sleeve to compete—even one-upping Apple in one particular feature. Here's a summary of all the security-related novelties Google announced in their I/O summit earlier this week.

Password-Protected Photo Folder


One pretty great addition announced at Google I/O 2021 is a new way to hide your sensitive snaps in Google Photos. A new "secret" album is coming to the cloud photo storage app, which is both hidden from view and securely protected by a password.

The locked folder will not appear openly alongside the rest of your images in Google Photos (or any other apps, for the record). Instead, it can be accessed in a separate place and only by you. Kudos to Google, as this is one step ahead of Apple's Photos app—which does have a "hidden album" option, but there is no way to fully protect sensitive photos behind any sort of password or touch or face ID.

For the record, even if you're an avid iPhone user, you can still download a free iOS version of Google Photos and benefit from all its features.

According to Google, we will be seeing this new "locked folder" feature soon on Google Pixel devices, with the rest of Samsung's Android device line-ups receiving it later this year.

Camera/Microphone-in-Use Indicators



As part of the security highlights announced on Tuesday, Android phones are also getting an indicator to let you know if your camera or mic are being used by any app in the background.

This addition was no doubt inspired by Apple's similar LED indicator introduced in iOS 14. Rather than a tiny LED dot, Android 12 will display a miniature camera or mic (or both) symbol in the top right of the phone's display, depending on which one is being used. When you tap on the symbol, you will be able to see exactly which apps are using these sensors.

Instantly Cut Off Camera/Mic access



Quick Settings also has two new tile toggles which allow you to instantly cut off access to either the camera or the microphone with one single tap. This will sever any connection with apps that may be using the hardware, and they will not be able to reconnect with the mic or camera until you actively turn access back on. 

This could certainly provide some extra peace of mind in certain situations, in our opinion.

The Privacy Dashboard



Android 12's new Privacy Dashboard gives you complete knowledge, if not complete control, over which apps are accessing which data on your phone. We knew we'd never see the likes of iOS 14.5's App Tracking Transparency feature—which was all the hype last month—on a Google platform. However, the Privacy Dashboard is a step in the right direction.

This new screen will let you see which apps on your phone are using exactly which types of data, and when they used it: particularly concerning camera, microphone and map location usage. You will be able to track these details not only when it comes to third-party apps, but you can view native Google apps' usage as well.

Instantly Delete Last 15 Minutes of Google Search History




This is not so much a security measure protecting you from malicious third parties, than it is protecting you from "second parties" (if you catch our drift). Jokes aside, Google has created a handy way to instantly delete the last 15 minutes of Google search history on your mobile device.

We do think this is a great little new feature that may save you plenty of trouble when the holidays come around and you're in a gift-shopping frenzy, but want to keep things under the radar. 

The way to do this on a smartphone device is as easy as it gets: you simply need to click on your profile image on the top right of the Google home page, scroll down a little, and—voilà! The last 15 minutes of browsing on the website will be gone forever.

Unlock Your Chromebook with Your Phone

Another security-related feature gives you the ability to instantly unlock your Chromebook with a single tap, as long as you've got your Android phone nearby. (Alongside that, Google claims your Chromebook's OS will be able to sync with your mobile device in a way that shows your phone's notifications right on your Chromebook screen.)
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