The official unveiling of Android P might be just a couple of weeks away, if rumors are to be believed. While we are still secretly rooting for Peppermint to be the official name, the great thing is that we’ve seen a lot of new features and details about the new Android version. Recently, we wrote about Android P preventing idle apps from accessing your camera, for privacy reasons. It turns out that Android P will also do the same thing for access to your device’s microphone.
Another AOSP commit merged on January 19 – the same day as the camera prevention rule set was merged – will also now allow Android P to prevent apps that are idle in the background from accessing your device’s microphone. Late last year, The New York Times reported that more than 1,000 popular Android apps listen for ad-tracking audio signals through device microphones – so this is indeed quite a scary thought.
How this rule works is that when an app is identified as “idle” – that is, when the app is in Doze state – Android P’s audio system will not allow the app to record audio using the device’s microphone. What it will do is that instead of writing data from the microphone to a file, it will subsequently write a string of zeros in the byte array – basically empty data. Once the app becomes active again, it will be given permission to start recording real data again.
This system will prevent malware from detecting whether the system has indeed blocked it out of the audio system – and it continues to write data. Hopefully, Android P will make this system better – when app permissions are usually a one-time deal and you can’t do anything to prevent that app from abusing said permission.