Android P To Block Idle Apps' Camera Access, Boost Privacy

Android P will natively block idle apps from accessing the camera of one's device in a bid to boost the overall security of the operating system, XDA Developers reports, citing a recent commit discovered in the main repository of the Android Open Source Project. The new limitation will be enforced by targeting User IDs of individual apps that are already used by earlier versions of the operating system as part of its battery-saving Doze mode. Whenever a UID is identified as "idling," i.e. running in the background after not being actively used for a while, Android P will restrict its privileges and make it unable to access the contents of the smartphone's viewfinder or interact with the device's camera on its own, the commit suggests.

If an idling app repeatedly attempts accessing the camera on Android P, it will be presented with an error after one of its requests to call the Camera2 API. The system error issued to the background app won't be shown to users and the OS itself will continue preventing it from accessing the camera of its hardware host. As the solution is based on Android's definition of idling, malicious apps could theoretically still access one's camera during a short timeframe after being closed but before having their resources limited by the system's battery management service. The move is still meant to increase the level of privacy users can expect from Android and the author of the commit argues as much, indicating that idling apps have little reason to attempt accessing one's camera in the first place.

The existence of the newly discovered functionality is in line with previous reports about Android P, with a number of insiders already claiming Google is planning to restrict third-party apps from accessing some APIs under certain conditions in order to improve the overall security of the OS and address some of its fragmentation concerns. As a result, Android may become somewhat more closed but presumably not to a degree that would lead to a significant reduction in the volume of innovative mobile services being developed. Should Google follow the roadmap established with Android 7.0 Nougat and 8.0 Oreo, the first developer preview of its next major OS iteration may launch in the coming weeks.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Head Editor
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]
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