News  Android
New security system coming with Android L?

Hints from Google I/O at permission fixes

Along with the fanfare surrounding the UI makeover termed "material", this years Google I/O threw up some other interesting nuggets which needed the boffins over at XDA Developers to uncover properly. It seems there is code in the Android L preview which throws up a screen asking for "at-time-of-use" permissions, like iOS, as opposed to the "at -time-of-install" only ones we see today. The implementation is purely speculative - i.e. it could turn out to use both, for example - but the mere presence of such code is the smoking gun you'd see if such changes were coming.

Users benefit

The existing permission system Android uses hasn't changed much from the start. It asks the users what features of the handset they are willing to grant to the app at the point of install only. Granted, if a future upgrade changes the required permissions they are again prompted to provide them, but it's all seen as rather a kludge in that something the user agreed to some time ago now has "free reign" over their data without reminding them exactly what it's allowed to do.

So far it seems to be Maps only

We might even have to be careful about getting carried away that this will go beyond Googles own apps. That's because the screenshot discovered clearly only related to Google Maps.


It's all in the implementation

This new approach would have to be handled very carefully, since most Android users are familiar with the current system which has always been in place. Imagine being asked for permission each time an SMS was to be sent, or a phone call to be made. Annoyances like this can turn users off whole platforms...and Google are well aware of the fine balance between usability and security.