Ever worry that your phone is recording you when you’re not paying attention? It looks like Google is taking steps to reduce the chances of that happening.

Xda-developers has been digging through code commits for the next major version of Android and the website says its found evidence that Android P will prevent idle apps running in the background from using your phone’s mic or camera to record you when you’re not paying attention.

Up until recently, once you’d granted an app permission to use your phone’s mic or camera, they could use them whether the app was in the foreground or running in the background… although Android Oreo imposes some new limits on background apps that might help the roughly 1.1 percent of Android users running version 8.0 or later.

So what’s new with Android P? Basically if an app that makes recordings using a camera enters an idle state, Google will shut off access to the camera, which should stop the app from recording video.

Things are a bit trickier when it comes to apps that use your microphone. When they enter an idle state, those apps will still think they’re recording audio, but they’ll actually be saving junk data to a file. Only when the app becomes active again will it record sound.

The idea is to help boost privacy, and as xda-developers notes there’s a reason Android P records junk data to a file instead of just cutting off the recording: an app that thinks its still working won’t try to circumvent Android’s new privacy protection.

Among other things, this could prevent apps from using your microphone to figure out what TV shows you’re watching while they’re running in the background.



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6 replies on “Android P will restrict camera, mic usage by background apps”

  1. “the roughly 1.1 percent of Android users running version 8.0 or later.”

    That’s a big problem too. Only 1% of users will have P after it comes out and many won’t get it until they buy their next phone.

    1. Yeah, Google either has to take much more control, the Android system needs to be greatly altered, or people’s spending habits need to be changed…
      …these are the solutions, and so its actually impossible to fix Android’s fragmentation issue.

      – People continue to spend money in relation to marketing, and not the quality/merits of a phone despite increasing entry costs and maintenance. Hence, software/hardware support is sacrificed for more marketing spending.
      – Google does not want to destroy the nature of “open source” of Android, and is only making small changes to the ecosystem (most are cosmetic), making Android limited in terms of rolling out updates from a centralised point.
      – Google is under pressure from the USA and EU committee to stop imposing restrictions to OEMs to include the Google Services, giving OEMs free-reign to fragment the ecosystem.

      If you want the best, you need to upgrade phones once every 9 months. Or stick to Apple’s closed-wall ecosystem.

  2. Some laptops have physical covers for the webcam. I would also like to see a physical cover over the mic too (on laptops). I definitely use the App Permissions to limit all my apps to the bare minimum permissions. I like desktops as they don’t have built-in cameras and mics.

    1. In Huawei devices running Android 7 or newer, you get to choose which apps have access to connect to the internet. This is something that should be in every version of Android. Can’t make use of the recording if you can’t upload it to your servers, can you?

    2. I cover my laptop cameras with postlets taped on, but my wife is high-tech. She uses a dime taped to the back so that you can flip it open and closed. 😉

      I’ll also turn off those devices in Device Manager for Windows, since I never use the camera feature.

    3. Some Laptops let you disable the Camera in Bios/Uefi, if you don’t intend to use it.

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