This article was published on May 19, 2021

5 big privacy-focused features coming to Android 12

Google's privacy push to match Apple

5 big privacy-focused features coming to Android 12

Google’s made a huge push towards privacy in the last few versions of Android. Given how Apple markets itself — and the iPhone — as a privacy-first company, the Big G needed to show that it cares about protecting your data too.

Last night at Google IO, the company’s virtual developer conference, it announced a range of privacy-related features for Android 12. Here are the top five of the lot:

1. New privacy dashboard

Android 12 will feature a privacy dashboard in your settings. It’ll mainly display what apps accessed your location, mic, and camera in the last 24 hours, and how many times.

You can also easily review other accessed permissions — such as storage — by simply scrolling down further in the dashboard. Google said you can easily revoke these permissions through the dashboard as well.

2. More control over camera and mic sensors

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The upcoming version of Google’s operating system will also feature iOS style indicators for when an app is using the camera, mic, or both. This helps you keep an eye on apps that might be sneakily using these sensors.

Google will also provide killswitches for these pesky apps in the notification shade — making it super simple to disable their privacy-invading actions.

3. Approximate location sharing

Another iOS-inspired feature that’s coming to Android 12 is approximate location access. For some apps, such as shopping or weather, you just need to give them a rough location so that they can identify your locality.

4. A secure sandbox for on-device machine learning functions

Android 12 is getting a privacy sandbox, called Private Computer Core, for machine learning stuff such as the Now Playing feature for identifying songs, live captions, and smart replies to notifications.

All of these functions will use on-device data to improve suggestions, and nothing will be sent to Google servers.

5. New password management tools

Last but not the least, the password manager used in Chrome and Android is also getting a host of new features. Now, it’ll send you an alert when your credentials are found in a data breach, and even provide a way to quickly change them via Chrome without going through multiple steps.

You’ll also get a password import feature to get your saved details from another password manager, and tighter integration between Android and Chrome.

These five new privacy features are a terrific addition to Android 12 — but there was one glaring omission.

Earlier this month, Apple delivered one of the most talked-about privacy update with a new anti-tracking feature. While reports in February suggested that Google is building a similar solution with a few caveats, the company made no announcements at the event.

If Google really intends to compete with Apple for the privacy throne, it better add that feature, fast.

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