Google’s upcoming policy for background location access is more strict than ever

Google’s upcoming policy for background location access is more strict than ever
Privacy and security - the twenty-first century’s hot topics. Now Google is targeting the unnecessary background location access, granted to apps. Google is previewing a new policy concerning the background location services’ use by apps that do not require it for their core functionality.

Android’s developers state that users consistently request more control over their location data and for that, in Android 10, people were given additional control for granting access while the app is in use. Now, in Android 11, a new feature is introduced - the ability to grant a temporary “one-time” permission to location data.

However, this is not the only thing that Google is planning to do in order to better protect its users’ privacy and security. According to a post on Android Developers Blog from yesterday, Google will be updating its policy concerning background location data access later this year.

There are several questions that will help Google determine whether an app’s location access in the background is really necessary:
  • Is the value of the feature clear to the user?
  • Is the app expected by the user to access background location?
  • Is the feature related to the core functionality of the app?
  • Is the app experience going to be the same without access to background location data?

All apps, including Google’s own apps, will undergo evaluation on the aforementioned factors. For example, an app that sends safety alerts as its core functionality will clearly need to access background location data. However, an app with a store locator feature does not need background location, location data is needed only when the user is using the app.

Google is providing the following timelines in regards to the new policy, however they are still subject to change:
  • By April, Google Play will receive its official update with the new policy concerning background location
  • By May, developers can request evaluation on their apps via the Play Console
  • By August 3rd, all new apps uploaded to Google Play will need to be approved in order to use background location
  • By November 2nd, all existing apps will have been evaluated and approved or removed from Google Play

Google is urging all developers to review their apps and their background location use by themselves before the introduction of the new policy. They have provided their background location access checklist which will help developers identify requests for access of location data by their apps so that these things can be easily worked out in advance.

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