Google will soon require apps to get approval for background location tracking

Google Maps
Google Maps (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Later this year, Google will make changes to Play Store policies requiring all apps to get approval to request your location in the background.
  • The changes will go into effect starting August 3, 2020, for new app submissions and expand to all apps on November 2.
  • The new policy will help protect Android users who don't have access to the new privacy controls found in Android 10.

In 2019, Google introduced new ways to help protect your location data in Android 10. This gave users more control over when an app could access your location. For example, you could choose to allow an app to only access your location when it is opened, as opposed to allowing it to constantly track you in the background unnecessarily.

In Android 11, Google is going a step further by giving users the ability to restrict access to sensitive data, like your location, with "one-time" permissions. While it's fantastic to see Android offer users more control over their location data, it won't be all that helpful to users stuck on older versions of Android. As I'm sure you're aware, Android has a fragmentation issue, and the majority of its users are currently running versions older than Android 10.

That's why Google will be making some changes to Play Store policies later this year and will begin requiring developers to get approval before their app can access your location in the background. The approval process will be determined by several factors and cover all apps, including those from Google.

  • Does the feature deliver clear value to the user?
  • Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
  • Is the feature important to the primary purpose of the app?
  • Can you deliver the same experience without accessing location in the background?

Some examples could include a social networking app that allows users to opt in to sharing their location with friends. In this case, having access to your location data in the background is perfectly reasonable. However, an app used for locating stores would have no reason to track you in the background because it's only useful for it to know your location when you're actively using the app.

The changes will first go into effect starting August 3, 2020, when all new apps submitted will go through this evaluation. Later, it will be expanded to all existing apps on the Play Store beginning on November 2, 2020.

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Jason England