Apple has made waves over the past few years with tools to protect user privacy, including a button that allows iPhone owners to ask apps not to track and share their activities with third parties like marketers.
Google, whose revenue relies primarily on serving digital ads, has not responded with a similar prompt for people to easily opt out of tracking. But Android 12 will give people more transparency into the data that apps are collecting and provide new controls to restrict an app’s access to data.
One tool, which Google calls a privacy dashboard, shows a timeline of apps that have access to different parts of the phone throughout the day. It could show that a social media app tapped your camera at 1 p.m. and that a weather app used your location at 3 p.m.
Google has also added some buttons like kill switches to shut off an app’s access to the phone’s microphone and camera. That could be useful in sensitive situations, like when you visit a doctor and want to make sure an app is not listening in on the conversation.
Apple also said this week that more privacy controls were arriving for iPhones, including a so-called app privacy report that works similarly to Google’s privacy dashboard. In addition to revealing what data is being tapped by each app, the privacy report will show the domains, or web addresses, that the apps are contacting. That could give insight into what companies an app is sharing data with while you use it.