Android 12 Brings Incredibly Useful Privacy Tools

John Lister's picture

The latest version of Android adds several new privacy features. However, users may need to make some manual tweaks to take full advantage.

The changes come in Android 12 which is rolling out to newer phones at the moment. Older models will either get it later on or will never be able to get it, depending on the manufacturer.

The biggest change is more information about the permissions system. That's the set-up by which users don't have to give an app complete access to the hardware and software on their system. Instead they can individually grant or restrict individual permissions, each of which covers a specific component or function.

The permissions system is often an early warning signal of a potentially rogue app. If an app requests a permission for something that doesn't seem relevant to its stated purpose - for example, a calculator app that wants access to messages or the microphone - then users should think twice before installing or updating.

Dashboard Gives Greater Control

Keeping track should be easier in Android 12 thanks to a new Privacy Dashboard that's now under the Privacy section of the Settings tool. It means users no longer have to examine permissions for individual apps one-by-one.

Instead users can now look at a specific permission such as access to the camera and see a list of apps that do or don't have the relevant access. Tapping on a listed app brings up a one-click option to grant or revoke permission. For a more informed choice, each permission will also list a timeline of which apps accessed it when. (Source:

Because many users are particularly concerned about the camera and microphone, Android 12 will now display a warning signal in the form of a green dot in the top menu bar whenever an app is accessing them. The quick settings menu (accessed by swiping down from the top corner) now includes an instant "killswitch" to temporarily block access to the camera or microphone.

Advertising ID Now Optional

Another change worth making for many is to block the advertising ID, a system that uses an individual number for the device to let advertisers bring together data from multiple sources about the user's activity. That makes for better targeted information or creepier snooping depending on perspective.

The Android 12 settings tool's Privacy section has a submenu for ads and then an option to "Delete advertising ID." Unlike the other changes, this will roll out to earlier Android versions later on.

The last major privacy change doesn't require any user action, instead working automatically. Apps that the user hasn't actively accessed in a while will now go into a hibernation mode. That means that although they can continue gathering location data in the background, this data will now be less precise. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do these changes seem useful? Do you pay much attention to privacy settings on your phone? Have you ever blocked an app because you didn't trust its requested permissions?

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