Google confirms Android 12 security and privacy protection ‘permission auto-reset’ feature will be backported all the way back to Android 6.0

Google Android Permission Auto-Reset Feature
No more perpetual permissions for rarely-used apps on Android. Pic credit: Christiaan Colen/Flickr

Android 12 has an important feature that seeks to prevent apps from gaining and retaining runtime permissions. Google has confirmed that this privacy and security ‘Permission Auto-Reset’ feature will automatically apply for smartphones running older versions of the Android operating system.

Google will backport an important Android privacy protection feature designed to shield smartphones from apps that have secured multiple permissions.

Android smartphone users tend to hoard apps, and that can be a security or privacy concern:

Android smartphones have begun to have a lot of apps. However, several users have a habit of downloading an app, using it a few times, and then ignoring the same.

According to multiple reports, Android smartphone users do tend to keep many apps installed on their devices. However, it does not mean users access all the apps regularly. Quite a few of the rarely-used apps can become a security threat or at least, a privacy concern.

Although newer versions of Android have tighter security controls, older iterations of Android are a little more lenient with privacy and security. Back when Android was slowly gaining new users, apps had easy access to several of the device’s hardware and software.

Specifically speaking, apps could gain quick and permanent access to several critical areas of the Android ecosystem. Google has been gradually addressing such privacy issues. And the latest feature in Android 12 should help secure even older devices running Android 6.0 and above.

Permission Auto-Reset feature will apply to older Android versions to boost security and privacy:

Google introduced the permission auto-reset feature in Android 11. The company has designed the feature to protect users’ privacy by automatically removing runtime permissions for apps.

In Android 11 and above, the smartphone operating automatically revokes runtime permissions for apps that users have ignored for a few months. Technical jargon aside, runtime permissions are requests to access sensitive areas of the Android ecosystem.

Android 11 and above merely revoke these permissions. The OS does not alter anything else. If or when users decide to activate a long-ignored app, they will have to regive their permissions.

Google has confirmed that besides Android 11 and 12, earlier versions of the smartphone OS, going all the way back to Android 6, will receive the ‘permission auto-reset feature:

“Starting in December 2021, we are expanding this to billions of more devices. This feature will automatically be enabled on devices with Google Play Services that are running Android 6.0 (API level 23) or higher.”

“On these devices, users can now go to the auto-reset settings page and enable/disable auto-reset for specific apps. The system will start to automatically reset the permissions of unused apps a few weeks after the feature launches on a device.”

Google has indicated that Android OS now powers more than 3 billion devices around the world. Needless to mention, the ‘permission auto-reset feature will benefit most of them.

Despite Google revoking sensitive permissions automatically, several security experts urge smartphone users not to download and hoard apps on their devices. Such a practice needlessly exposes users to security and privacy risks.

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