One of my favorite features of Android 10 was the new one-time permission system for location. In Android 11, that model is expanded to address even more privacy concerns with the inclusion of the camera(s) and microphone(s). Any app that wants to see where we are, use the camera to see what we see, or use a microphone to hear what we hear, now gives us the option of allowing it just one time.
From the Android 11 developer site:
In Android 11, whenever your app requests a permission related to location, microphone, or camera, the user-facing permissions dialog contains an option called Only this time. If the user selects this option in the dialog, your app is granted a temporary one-time permission.
This means that when you open an app that wants to use your location, camera, or mic, you'll get an addition to the normal permission prompt that says, "Only this time." When you close the app — not move it to the background and let it run but actually close it — the permission is automatically revoked until the next time you want to use the app. All you have to do is be sure to swipe it away in the list of your open apps, and you're golden.
This is important. All of our data should be well protected, but anything that acts as a tell about where we are in the world should be handled separately. When you're using an app to identify a song or take a picture, you know the microphone or camera is turned on. But apps can also stay alive in the background and keep collecting data.
This is how "spy" apps work that are targeted to track your kids or partner. You run them once, give them permission to record things like where someone is or record audio, and they keep running without the person's knowledge. Whether or not there is a need for such apps is for another time and place, but there's a definite need to protect ourselves from apps like this if they're disguised as something we wanted to use, like a game or a shopping app.
Android 11's one-time permission feature isn't perfect, and there are more permissions that should fall under its umbrella. But seeing it expanded to include the camera and microphone is great and gives me hope that Google will continue to give us privacy tools that actually matter.
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