Google to evaluate Android apps requesting background location data

Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Future)

Google will introduce one-time permissions for location data in the upcoming release of Android 11 but the search giant also plans to roll out a new Google Play policy which will require developers to get approval if they want to access a device's location data in the background.

Even users whose devices won't receive the update to the latest version of Android will benefit from the policy change as it is aimed at older versions of the mobile operating system and will be applied across the Play Store.

In a post on the Android Developers Blog, director of product management and trust & safety at Google Play, Krish Vitaldevara explained the reason behind the policy change, saying:

“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. In fact, many of these apps could provide the same user experience by only accessing location when the app is visible to the user. We want to make it easier for users to choose when to share their location and they shouldn't be asked for a permission that the app doesn't need.”

Getting approval from Google

Going forward developers will be required to get approval from Google if they want their apps to be able to access a user's location data in the background.

To assess whether or not an app will be granted authorization to access a user's location data, the company's app store review team will consider whether the feature delivers clear value to the user, if users would expect the app to access their location in the background, is the feature important to the primary purpose of the app and if an app can deliver the same experience without accessing location data in the background.

In his blog post, Vitaldevara pointed out that apps which send emergency or safety alerts as well as social networking apps would have a strong case to access location data in the background while an app with a store locator feature would be better of only accessing location data when opened.

The new Google Play policy will go into effect in April but enforcement for new apps won't begin until August and existing apps will have until November to comply.

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Via 9to5Google

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.