Android 12 to arrive with a Privacy Dashboard, microphone, and camera indicators
Image: Google
Catalin Cimpanu May 18, 2021

Android 12 to arrive with a Privacy Dashboard, microphone, and camera indicators

Android 12 to arrive with a Privacy Dashboard, microphone, and camera indicators

At the Google I/O developer conference today, Google has revealed more details about the next version of the Android mobile operating system—Android 12, scheduled for release next fall.

While Android 12, scheduled to be released next fall, will come with a new user interface and various other developer-related updates, there will also be new security and privacy features included.

The biggest of these new features is something that Google calls the Privacy Dashboard. Available as a future option in the Android 12 settings, this new section supposedly aggregates all permissions in one section, making it easier to access and fine-tune what data each individual app can access.

“With the new Privacy Dashboard, users will have a simple and clear timeline view of the last 24 hour accesses to location, microphone and camera,” Google said today.

Privacy-dashboard
Image: Google

Android 12 privacy heavily inspired by iOS 14

In addition, Android 12 also comes with three security features directly copied from iOS 14.

The first of these is the addition of microphone and camera indicators to the notification area, which will light up every time an app accesses a smartphone’s camera and microphone, similarly to how webcam LEDs activate when the camera is in use.

But while iOS 14 shows an orange dot, which is not that clearly visible in a crowded notification bar, Google has opted for a more brash design that uses two very easy-to-spot icons.

iOS-camera-indicator
Image: Apple
camera-indicators
Image: Google

The second feature copied from iOS 14 is one related to an application’s ability to access location data. Starting with Android 12, Google said that users would be able to allow apps access to an approximate location, instead of the current super-precise coordinates that the OS was sharing with apps every few seconds.

Just like with Apple and iOS, the idea behind this option is that some apps might be able to work just fine with location data such as a neighborhood or city and without having meter-level precision with their GPS coordinates.

All in all, coupled with options like “Only this time” and “Don’t allow,” the new addition will give Android users more fine-grained controls over their location sharing options, something for which Google has been criticized in the past, and which the company has been trying to improve for the past two years.

approximate-location
Image: Google

And last, the third feature borrowed from iOS 14 is that Android 12 will also start showing visible notifications when Android apps copy data from a device’s clipboard (the OS memory location where cut/copy-paste data is temporarily stored).

Google says this notification won’t appear when data is cut/copy-pasted inside the same app, but only when clipboard data moves across apps. If this is done on purpose by a user, the notification can be dismissed, but, otherwise, the notification could stand as a sign that a particular app is secretly harvesting clipboard data even when it’s not in use, from the OS background.


And last but not least, Google said that it is also planning to add a new feature called app hibernation.

This new feature will work by automatically revoking all permissions granted to an app if the app has not been used for an extended period of time, and also force-stopping the app to reclaim memory, storage, and other temporary resources.

“Users can bring apps out of hibernation simply by launching the app,” Google said today, urging users to try the new Android 12 Beta to test the new features.

Catalin Cimpanu is a cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He previously worked at ZDNet and Bleeping Computer, where he became a well-known name in the industry for his constant scoops on new vulnerabilities, cyberattacks, and law enforcement actions against hackers.