Google announced some of the upcoming privacy and security features for Android 11, the newest Android OS. The most exciting news for Android users and developers will be saved for the Google I/O 2020 in May.
For now, the company has shared what is called the first Developer Preview. Here is a summary of some of the features Google announced.
One-time Permission Access
Android carefully controls the data apps have access to. It used to be the user had to give permission for data access when the app was installed. When Android 6.0 Marshmallow was released run-time permissions were introduced. The app could prompt the user for access to certain sensitive data even after installation.
Some of the sensitive data included location, microphone, and camera. With Android 10, Google introduced a version of run-time permissions which allowed the user to give access only while the app was running. However, this feature was only for location data.
Android 11 gives users a more refined control over additional sensitive data, including camera and microphone access. Google has introduced a new one-time permission feature for the Android 11 Developer Preview.
This new feature allows users to temporarily give an app access so long the app is in the foreground. As soon as the user navigates away from the app, access will be reneged.
Scoped Storage Changes
The change known as Scoped Storage was meant to stop the overuse of the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE. Too many apps on Google Play were being given access to the whole external storage where users had their private documents, photos, and other files saved. Scoped Storage apps only granted access to the files they needed. If an app has READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission under the Scoped Storage it can view certain files through the MediaStore API.
Alternately, the app can have the user manually pick which files to give it access to through the system file picker. Apps that still need full access to the external storage can request the user to give the app access to the root directory of the external storage.
By August 1st, 2020 all new apps submitted to the Google Play Store must target Android 10. By November 1st, 2020 all updates to existing apps must do the same. Developers of file managers for Android 11 must give Google a declaration form if they want broad access to the external storage.
When the form is accepted the file manager app will have a complete view of the MediaStore but will not have access to external app directories.
Mobile Driver License Support
Since last year Google has been working on a feature that lays the foundation for securely storing identification documents on your mobile device, in particular ISO 18013-5 compliant mobile driving licenses. Google announced this feature at Google I/O 2019 and now Android 11 is ready to support it. There are several U.S. states testing or implementing eDLs.
BioMetric Prompt Changes
Google has now included three different authentication types: strong, weak, and device credential. In Android 11 developers can now query biometric methods deemed weak like software-based facial recognition solutions found on many phones. Google previously noted several phones that for giving a weak facial recognition authenticator when doing crypto-based authentication. Now the developers decide what level of authentication their app needs.
Secure Storage and Mainline Modules
BlobstoreManager will make it easier and better for apps to share data blobs, or binary data collections. It will also be a more secure option for your data. Also, Google now has 20 new project Mainline modules for Android 11 Developer Preview.
Google is expanding the use of sanitizers to several security-critical components. These sanitizers will find memory issues in production for all apps targeting Android 11 or higher. This will allow developers to thoroughly test their apps before launching them.
With these new developments on the horizon for this year, Android users certainly have something to look forward to. For now, enjoy your preview!