Privacy is a major concern these days, and it’s easy to worry about smartphones that are “always listening.” To combat this, Google is making a major change to how background apps are handled in its upcoming Android P.
A Look to the Future
We’ve all heard the horror stories about malicious apps being able to take control of a device while running in the background. Take the recently-found Skygofree malware for example. It was capable of executing 48 different commands, including the ability to turn on your phone’s microphone and listen in on…whatever you’re talking about at the time.
That’s a pretty scary thought. Even if you “have nothing to hide” (that’s what people always say, right?), no one wants every conversation to be potentially public.
Regardless of what app is trying to spy on you, they all work the same way: leveraging access to the phone’s hardware while the app runs in the background. The thing is, why would an app need to access your camera or microphone while running in the background? There isn’t much of a good argument here, save for always-listening hotword detection (like OK Google). And that should be part of the core operating system in the first place.
To put that plainly: there’s no reason an app should need access to the camera or microphone while it’s running in the background. And starting with Android P, access to these hardware features will be blocked for apps running in the background.
Left: Camera commit; Right: Microphone commit.
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