Android 12’s quietly important privacy progress

This year, for the first time in a long time, it’s easy to glance at Google’s latest Android effort and focus mostly on the surface.

Android 12’s most striking element is without a doubt the overhauled look and feel it brings to the operating system (even if realistically, Pixel owners are the only ones who’ll reap the full benefits of that change). We haven’t seen such a dramatic reimagining of the Android interface in many a moon — since 2014’s Android 5.0 (a.k.a. Lollipop) release — and this progression stretches past the core software itself, even, with effects set to reach the experience of using apps within Android and eventually also Google apps on the web. The same principles will apply to Chromebooks, Smart Displays, and Wear-based wearables before long as well, making this a true Google ecosystem evolution.

And yet, as is always the case with major Android updates, there’s more to this latest software than meets the eye. Some of Android 12’s most important advancements are under the hood and in the all-too-easy-to-overlook provinces of performance, security, and in particular privacy.

Privacy, of course, is a hot-button issue these days — with much of the attention aimed at Google in that area erring more on the side of sensationalism than anything involving practical, real-world concerns. But there’s no denying that in the right context, privacy most certainly matters. Having visibility and control over how your information is used is an increasingly important part of the modern mobile-tech experience.

Right now, much of the privacy-related coverage surrounding Android 12 revolves around the software’s high-profile Privacy Dashboard and how that feature compares to Apple’s recent privacy-centric changes. That’s all fine and dandy, but zeroing in on one marketing-friendly point risks missing the bigger picture and overlooking some of Android 12’s even more meaningful, if less easily promoted, privacy improvements.

And the software’s got quite a few of those, including more nuanced and narrowed-down systems for providing location access to apps and an automated hibernation system that disables apps entirely and prevents ’em from launching background processes if you haven’t interacted with ’em in a few months.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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