Google reveals new privacy features for Android 12 — can it compete with Apple?

Google Privacy
(Image credit: Google)

During the Google I/O 2021 conference, Google introduced a new "privacy dashboard" to Android smartphones, allowing users to see what type of data has been accessed by different apps.

Announced as part of the upcoming Android 12, this privacy feature now offers a timeline of when apps accessed various data, including their location, camera and microphone. However, it doesn't go the extra mile like Apple recently did with its App Tracking Transparency.

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Google's set of new privacy tools may let users manage and limit the amount of access an app has on their device, but it won't specifically ask for a user's permission to stop using ad-tracking. To do that, users will need to dig deep into a phone's settings (which can be a pain).

Ad-tracking is clearly a big part of Google's business model, although the tech giant has largely been criticized for its ad-tracking policies. This is why it has recently introduced a new interest-based advertising tech known as FLoC, which has also been flagged as a "terrible idea" by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). 

(Image credit: Google)

While Apple's recent privacy feature has been warmly welcomed by iPhone and iPad users, allowing them to block ad tracking across other companies’ apps and websites,  Facebook was not too happy to hear this.

The ability to block ad-tracking not only puts a dent in its own business plan, but Facebook has stated that it messes with personalized advertising that supports small businesses.

With the announcement of its FLoC system and its new privacy features during I/O conference, Google appears to be trying to find the middle ground between using data for advertising to help businesses (and itself, no less) and putting those who care about their privacy at ease.

As an additional privacy perk, Google has also introduced an indicator for when an app is using the camera and microphone. What's more, users can easily disable access via the quick settings menu, even if an app asked for permission before.

Google's annual I/O conference had a number of special announcements, including a partnership with Samsung for a major Wear OS update.

Darragh Murphy

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.