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Google bringing Android 11-12’s ability to revoke ‘unused app’ permissions to billions of older phones

Last year, Android 11 introduced a clever privacy feature that removes permissions granted to “unused apps” that haven’t been opened in some time. Google is now bringing this auto-reset to older phones and tablets via Play services over the coming months. 

Android 11 (and newer) can automatically remove permissions from “unused apps” to limit access to sensitive personal data, including location, camera, contacts, files, microphone, and phone. This does not get in the way of day-to-day usage as you have to go at least three months without using an application before Android automatically removes permissions.

Google is now bringing permission auto-reset to “billions more devices” running Android 6.0 Marshmallow to Android 10. This is made possible with Google Play services. 

Once rolled out, auto-reset will be enabled by default for apps targeting Android 11 (API level 30) and later. To prevent issues and unintended experiences, resets will not apply to older applications still targeting API levels 23-29 unless manually enabled by end users. Additionally:

Some apps and permissions are automatically exempted from revocation, like active Device Administrator apps used by enterprises, and permissions fixed by enterprise policy.

Meanwhile, developers can ask users to “prevent the system from resetting their app’s permissions.”

This is useful in situations where users expect the app to work primarily in the background, even without interacting with it. The main use cases are listed here.

Next month, Google will make the cross-platform auto-reset APIs available with Jetpack Core 1.7.0, while the company today issued guidance on how developers can prepare.

Android’s auto-reset feature will begin gradually rolling out in December and be fully available in Q1 2022. Once live, users will get a new auto-reset settings page to enable/disable the behavior for specific applications. A few weeks after that, Google will start resetting permissions from unused apps.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: