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Security & privacy

Google is making big changes to the way your private data is shared

Our digital privacy is a precious commodity that’s becoming increasingly scarce. There’s money to be made in data, after all, so the biggest tech companies on earth don’t have too much incentive to help you lay low.

It’s not as if these companies do this without your permission, though. Most apps request access to your data the first time you boot them up, but not all of them. Some developers just leave their privacy “gotchas” buried deep in the terms and conditions. Tap or click for an app that can read the Terms and Conditions for you.

Until recently, Google’s Android operating system wasn’t always as flexible when certain apps accessed personal data like your location. But now, a new update for Android is changing the way apps request location data, and you won’t have to download anything extra to reap the benefits.

Android apps will let you approve location data access

A new update to Android’s location services is sure to make privacy advocates smile. Previously, when apps would ask for location permissions, you’d have the ability to enable it or deny it with no middle ground.

But Google is changing things in the latest Android update by allowing you to approve location access “Just Once,” which will save you the trouble of having to go into Settings every time you’re finished.

According to a Google blog post, the upcoming Android 11 release will give users the ability to approve access to location, microphone and camera on demand rather than force you to enable and disable manually each time.

This will help users save significant amounts of battery life and decrease data usage, and will help prevent people from forgetting these settings are enabled.

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Oftentimes, excessive data use and battery drain go hand-in-hand. This new initiative from Google not only shows the company is valuing privacy more, but that it’s paying attention to positive decisions its rivals are making. For example, Apple started to let users approve data access on a case-by-case basis last year.

How can I get this new feature on my Android phone?

As of now, the new feature is only available to Android beta testers running Android 11 for Google Pixel. The latest version of Android, like most OS releases, will probably come from Google later this year — most likely the fall.

In the meantime, you’ll have to manually enable and disable location access like the rest of us. This isn’t too hard to do, but things will sure be a lot easier for users once the Android 11 update is released.

To disable location services for individual apps, open the Settings app on your phone, then tap Location, followed by App Permissions. If you don’t see Location, tap Security & location and then Location.

Under “Allowed all the time” and “Allowed only while in use,” you can view the apps that use your phone’s location. To change the app’s permissions, tap it, then choose the location access for the app.

It’s not super difficult to disable, but it’s an extra step not all of us have time for. Hopefully, Google’s pivot towards more privacy-friendly features is here to stay. But then again, Google isn’t always known for its subtlety in tracking users. Tap or click here to see some of our favorite Google alternatives.

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