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Android Q Brings New Privacy and Security Features

Released in Beta 1 last week, the latest Android iteration (Android Q) arrived with new privacy protection improvements and other security enhancements. 

Released in Beta 1 last week, the latest Android iteration (Android Q) arrived with new privacy protection improvements and other security enhancements. 

Building on previously introduced features such as file-based encryption, lockdown mode, encrypted backups, Google Play Protect, and more, Android Q brings more control over location access, improved transparency, and better data security (many of the enhancements are part of Google’s Project Strobe).

In Android Q, for example, apps still need to ask for permission to get location, but users can set different permission levels, such as never, only when the app is in use (running), or all the time (when in the background).

“To maintain a good user experience, design your app to gracefully handle when your app doesn’t have background location permission or when it doesn’t have any access to location,” Google tells application developers. 

Because users are more likely to grant permissions to an app if they clearly understand the reason for which the app needs them, developers are advised to ask for the location permission from users in context, such as when a feature that requires location is enabled. Developers are also advised to only ask for the level of access required for that feature. 

The upcoming platform release also provides users with more control over access to shared files, such as photos, videos, and audio collections, via new runtime permissions. Apps will need to use the system file picker for downloads, which allows users to decide which Download files the app can access. 

Android Q will also prevent apps from launching an Activity while in the background, thus preventing them from coming into focus and taking over the screen. Developers will be able to use high-priority notifications and provide a full-screen intent if their app needs to get the user’s attention quickly. 

Google will limit access to non-resettable device identifiers, such as device IMEI, serial number, and similar identifiers, and will randomize a device’s MAC address when connected to different Wi-Fi networks by default. 

The next Android release will remove access to /proc/net, which includes information about a device’s network state, thus requiring applications that need access to such information to refer to the NetworkStatsManager and ConnectivityManager classes.

Access to the clipboard data will only be available to the default input method editor (IME) and the application that currently has focus. Furthermore, applications will only be able to read the serial number of a USB device after the user has granted permissions to access the device. 

Related: Google Improves Android Encryption with Adiantum

Related: Google Boosts Protection of Backups in Android

Related: Google Tightens Rules Around App Permissions

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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