One-Time Permissions Will Stop Unwanted Camera, Mic Use In Android


Android 11 Beta 1 is now live and one of the biggest new features centers around how the OS handles permissions, specifically for the camera and microphone. In short, the new OS is switching things up to give users the option to provide one-time permissions for both components. Now, when an app requests permission to use either the camera or microphone, users will have three options. The first two will be familiar. Users can deny access entirely or allow it all the time. Or, users can opt to only allow the permission to be used while they’re in the app.

The latter option will effectively reset the permission every time the user exits the app. The news means that applications that run in the background or that may only need the camera or microphone periodically won’t have access to those all the time.

These permissions add onto one tucked into Android 10 as well as other security changes in 11

At the heart of the new one-time permissions feature for Android 11 is security. Summarily, as Android presently works, granting permissions to apps all the time means they can access the camera or mic all the time. And they don’t necessarily need to inform the user that they’re accessing it. That lends malware and apps with ill-intent the ability to ask once and access forever. In effect, users only have to slip up once. Then a malicious app can access the components and users won’t be able to easily deny the app’s permissions.

A similar change is already in place in Android 10, but for location data access. And the previously-used options will still be available. So the upcoming alteration to how those work shouldn’t be too disruptive for those users who don’t particularly care about the permissions for the camera or mics with regard to Android 11.

Simultaneously, more security-focused users will recognize how helpful it can be to prevent apps from constantly gathering that type of data. There are very few reasons that most applications should ever need to access mics or the camera.

Aside from that change, Android 11 is also making it more difficult for users to install apps from unknown sources. As with the permissions change, that’s entirely predicated on improving security. Apps that aren’t installed from the Google Play Store are undeniably less safe for end-users. And that’s because the Play Store automatically checks its apps on a regular basis. Apps that don’t adhere to Google’s policies are also removed. So users don’t need to worry quite so much about malicious apps and bad actors.

When is the Android 11 update set to arrive?

Now, the current version of Android 11 is a beta. It’s also the first of three expected tests aimed at the wider populace of Android users. That doesn’t mean the new one-time permissions feature won’t make it over but users will have to wait a bit longer before it becomes available. The final release of the new OS platform isn’t set to land until sometime in Q3 2020.

As always, Google Pixel handsets will undoubtedly see the final release first as well. Some OEMs have previously managed to push out the update faster than Google — at least with regard to all of the Pixel devices. But, generally speaking, Android 11 won’t arrive quickly for most Android users. And the current iteration of the beta is only available to those smartphones as well, all the way back to the Pixel 2.

Other OEMs are expected to launch their own beta variations of the OS within the “coming weeks.”

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Brian Jones

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