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Google’s move to limit 3rd-party camera apps on Android 11 protects location data

It emerged on Tuesday that the next version of Android will force apps to use the built-in camera and ignore third-party defaults. This is part of Android 11’s focus on privacy, with Google specifically wanting to protect location data derived from the camera.

With this change, users are still able to download and use a third-party camera app by launching it directly from the homescreen/launcher. However, with Android 11, you cannot be in an app like Twitter and open another camera client other than the default that’s pre-installed by the manufacturer. (Apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, that have a built-in camera interface are not impacted.)

Google tells The Verge, in addition to updating its Android 11 Behavior changes document yesterday, that this “privacy and security” change is specifically meant to protect location data:

This is designed to ensure that the EXIF location metadata is correctly processed based on the location permissions defined within the app sending the intent.

The scenario Google wants to avoid is the app responsible for calling/opening the camera accessing location data even if it was never granted permission. The Verge cites the time “Shutterfly was accused of harvesting GPS coordinates from EXIF metadata.”

Google’s workaround is to have regular applications “[specify] the third-party camera app’s package name to fulfill the intent. Meanwhile, the company says:

This change does not affect users’ capability to install and use any camera app to capture images or videos directly. A user can set a third party camera app as the default camera app.

You’ll still be able to use a hardware shortcut to launch your preferred camera. Google’s privacy tentpole for Android 11 also includes one-time camera, microphone, and location permissions, as well as having the system auto-reset apps you haven’t used for an extended period of time. There’s also a big focus on background location data.

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: