Much to the joy of privacy aficionados, Android Q delivers significant and much-needed change to how the OS handles location permissions, such as a new option to lets apps access location only when in use.
However, some have noticed that Android Q Beta 5 grants ‘all the time’ location access to every app installed before updating to the newest beta.
At first, this seems rather alarming — not to mention a total shift from how Android Q has implemented location controls so far. But, there is a reason for this, as explained by the Android Q Beta 5 changelog:
“Apps with a location permission enabled in Android Pie will receive the “all-the-time” location permission on upgrading to Q. To test the upgrade behaviour, apps which had any location permission in Beta 4 or lower will also be granted the “all-the-time” location permission when the device is upgraded to Beta 5. Users may get the location reminder notification if these apps access their location in the background.”
In other words, Google is using Beta 5 to test the upgrade behaviour of apps. In the final release, anyone upgrading from Pie — read: most people upgrading to Q that didn’t participate in the beta program — will have their currently installed apps automatically set to the ‘all the time’ location setting.
So, to make sure this works correctly, Google tested it with people coming from Beta 4 to Beta 5. While frustrating for beta users who had set up their location settings appropriately, it’s ultimately a smart move on Google’s part and a proper use of the beta program. It is, after all, for testing things.
The test has another hidden benefit
The test Google is running in Beta 5 has a second hidden benefit for both the search giant and users: it also tests changes to a helpful notification the company added back in Beta 3.
Starting in Beta 3, Android Q would send a notification to users to remind them about an app that has access to your location all the time. Typically, the notification would appear when that app accessed location in the background.
Unfortunately, in Beta 3, that notification didn’t appear very often. Google tweaked the parameters for it in Beta 5, and it now appears more often. I’ve had it pop up once when Google Pay accessed my location (even though I hadn’t used the app in a long time). Tapping the location opened the app’s location permission setting so I could change when or if Pay could access my location.
While this location use warning is a welcome addition that should help users be more aware of how and when apps access their location, I think it doesn’t appear often enough.
Thankfully, it’s easy to change location permissions in Android Q as well. If you head to the Settings menu and tap the ‘Location’ option then ‘App permission,’ you’ll get a list of your apps broken up by the level of location permission they have. From there, you can easily change or revoke access for any app.