If you've used any of Google's voice services for Assistant, Maps, and Search, you will have gotten a lengthy notice about some major changes as to how and why it collects audio of what you say. These actions are a response to last year's revelations about how humans were contracted to review those clips and how some of them got leaked. The top-line takeaway here is that every user has been opted out of data collection.
Privacy is always a major concern, especially when there are shady apps out there that like to have constant access to your info. When Apple unveiled iOS 14 last month, one standout feature was access indicators, small symbols in the status bar that are displayed when either the camera or microphone are in use. Thanks to the developer of Energy Ring and Energy Bar, we can now enjoy a similar feature on Android.
Google tried to sneak scoped storage into Android 10, but developers weren't having it. This more restrictive (and secure) method of managing your internal storage is coming back in Android 11, but there will be a new "all files access" permission. Or rather, there was supposed to be. Google has updated its support page to clarify that Android 11 apps won't be able to use that permission until 2021.
Android 11 Developer Preview 3 has a new setting for app permissions, allowing them to be automatically revoked if you don't use the app for long enough. Disabled by default, the descriptively-named "Auto revoke permissions" setting will revoke permissions for a given app if it isn't used "for a few months."
Everyothermonth, a legitimate, useful app gets kicked off the Play Store while sleazy applications with bad intentions thrive. Google's removal algorithms often cite arbitrary reasons as in the recent case of Slide for Reddit. The third-party client was removed for including a screenshot of an article in its listing that contained the word "ISIS" (which had been there for years). The latest app to be hit by Google's automated patrol is YouMail, a visual voicemail service that offers spam call protection.
If you're skeeved out by apps tracking your location at all times (or even asking you to allow them to do so), good news: Android 11 aims to curb that behavior. The newest OS version requires apps to jump through a number of new hoops to get constant location access, eventually including getting approval to remain listed on the Play Store.
Over the past few years, web browsers have started to change how permissions work, to curb bad behavior from websites. For example, most browsers now block auto-playing videos with audio entirely, while the request prompt for notifications might be hidden on Chrome soon. Android is apparently taking a cue from changes like these, as Android 11 now blocks apps from repeatedly asking for a given permission.
Android 11 is now official, and Google is releasing the first Developer Preview for this new version starting today. The software changes this time sound ambitious, with Google essentially taking most of its work on Android 10 and (literally) turning it up to 11, featuring enhancements to privacy and security, improvements to Project Mainline, a new dedicated "conversations" section for notifications, and tweaks to better harness 5G — all among a much longer list of changes just too big to include here. You can check it out for yourself by manually flashing it onto supported Pixel phones (everything but the 2016 OGs).
Over the last week or so, the popular SMS to Gmail backup application SMS Backup+ has finally stopped working as a result of Google's Gmail API changes. When messages regarding the app's impending loss of functionality were sent out a few months back, our readers were understandablyupset. After all, over five million people use SMS Backup+, and not just for backups, but for moving messages between devices and the convenience of Gmail-based threaded conversation view. Thankfully, SMS Backup+ has an IMAP-based workaround which still works.
Over the last year, Google has been instituting sweeping changes when it comes to app permissions to help protect user privacy. It imposed new restrictions when it came to SMS and phone permissions, and plenty of app makers found themselves caught in the Google support machine. Now developers found in violation of recent Gmail API changes are left out in the lurch, and the list of affected apps includes SMS Backup+, Nine, and even SwiftKey.