Google is placing restrictions on Android apps that track location in the background
Google is cracking the whip on Android apps that track your location in the background. Going forward, these apps will have to go through a review process that will check whether it needs access to the data or not.
The new changes were announced in a blog post addressed to Android developers earlier this week. Google mentioned in the post that starting August 3, all new Google Play apps that as for background access will need to pass a review. This will expand to all existing apps on November 3.
Location tracking is an essential feature for many apps but it can be rather invasive when apps indiscriminately ask for location access. When it comes to background location tracking, that's worse because you might be completely unaware of which apps are tracking you at any moment in time.
The new review process will "force" apps to justify why they need the background location tracking feature and also have them limit tracking if they fail to justify.
Google explained that this review process will look at "whether an app's core functionality actually justifies this background location access". For example, a social networking app that has users opt in to continuously share their location with friends is justified. On the other hand, it would be harder to justify why a store locator app needs background location access. For an app like that location access while is use works just fine.
Google added that informing the user will also help in the app's chances of getting approved.
These new changes were announced as a part of a "wider crackdown" on location tracking on Android 11. It follows Apple's footsteps - in iOS 13 you can grant sensitive permissions on a one-time basis. iOS also has reminders to tell users that apps are tracking location in the background.
However, these reminders and permissions do not apply to some of Apple's own apps like Find My iPhone.
Google has pointed out that this new policy will apply to its own apps as well.