Google cracks down on location tracking apps

Edward G. | March 9, 2020

Google is putting a real effort into improving Android’s privacy. The company is placing new restrictions on Android applications that track users’ locations in the background. A new Google Play Store review system is about to get rid of the apps which refuse to be worthy of trust. 

Apps to justify background location access

The official announcement from Google declares that it will no longer allow apps to track users’ locations in the background indiscriminately. Starting from August 3rd, expanding to November 2nd, new and already existing Google Play Store applications, will have to pass a thorough review. The company requires developers to prepare strong justifications. On basis why their app needs to continuously aggregate background location data while it’s not in use. If the representatives don’t express legit reasons, apps will be instantly excluded from the Android app store.

“As we took a closer look at background location usage, we found that many of the apps that requested background location didn’t actually need it,” Director of Product Management Trust & Safety for Google Play, wrote. “In fact, many of these apps could provide the same user experience by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user.”

Google is creating a new review system where it weighs several different factors to allow apps continuous location tracking. For instance, is the user aware that the app possibly collects location data all the time? Or that if it serves the primary purpose of the software? That said, fitness and step-tracking apps more likely to have much stronger justifications for why they collect data in the background. But streaming, gaming, or similar apps don’t need to keep an eye on the geographical user’s location constantly. Most likely, these will need to change the current practice.

From 1000 to 0?

Location tracking is a vital feature for many apps and services. Still, it gets pretty invasive when apps uncontrollably access location data. You might be utterly unaware of which your innocent apps on your mobile are observing you in the background all the time.

Google announced new policies as part of a broader crackdown on location tracking in Android 11. It follows in iOS 13’s footsteps. Apple is the first one that lets users grant sensitive permissions on a one-time basis. IOS 13 also sends repeating reminders that apps are tracking your location data in the background. Surprisingly, this privacy policy doesn’t apply to some of Apple’s built-in apps. Apps like Find My, in a move that’s been critiqued by techs.

Google owns its decision by granting new policies to its built-in apps. Back in 2018, researchers from Associated Press discovered that disabling Google’s Location History feature doesn’t stop all tracking due to Web and App Activity settings. In response, Google implemented a new feature that automatically deletes the location data after a specific amount of time.

Later in 2019, researchers from the International Computer Science Institute announced that more than 1000 Google Play Store apps harvest data. The apps collect sensitive information, such as location, even after the owner denies permission. Location data is probably the most popular target among marketing companies. They are always in search of customer geographic locations. Luckily, Google is about to change it.

How to prevent being tracked

It’s scary to see how much information your precious applications know about you. Not only is it intrusive and violates your digital rights to privacy. Your data can put you to many cybersecurity risks or to end up in the hands of the third party. The good news is, your online security and privacy are entirely in your hands. You can phase out any invasion by using a VPN. VPN gives you anonymity by encrypting your online communications. At the same time, it changes your IP address along with virtual location, so you can browse without leaving any footprints. Stay safe and grab Atlas VPN for free.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.



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