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Google confirms Android 11 will limit third-party camera apps because of location spying fears

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Google is making a change in Android 11 that will force apps that want to take photos or video to use the phone’s built-in camera app — even if you’ve made a different camera app, like OpenCamera, your default choice for photos.

“[W]e believe it’s the right trade-off to protect the privacy and security of our users,” the Android engineering team wrote on August 17th, adding that apps that call on the camera would need to explicitly name each and every third-party camera app they’d like to support. Now, Google’s giving us the reason: it’s to keep bad actors from potentially harvesting your location.

It’s not a drastic change; many camera features will still work exactly the way they used to. It also mirrors the way the camera works on the iPhone. Only this year did Apple allow alternative third-party app defaults — if only for email and browser apps.

And yet, two of the most popular third-party camera app developers tell The Verge that Google’s move seems like a shame. One is worried it might impact his business by further turning third-party camera apps into second-class citizens.

To understand what’s changing, it would probably help if I first explain what’s staying the same:

  • You’ll still be able to open a third-party camera app and use it directly by tapping its icon on your home screen
  • You’ll still be able to take pictures with the cameras built into popular apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram
  • You’ll still be able to double-tap your power button (or similar shortcuts) to launch the camera app of your choice, Google confirms
  • Apps will still be able to launch the camera app of your choice, too; they just can’t import any photos or videos that way

The only thing that’s changing: if Android apps want to use your camera app — instead of baking in a camera app of their own — they will now go straight to your phone’s built-in camera app instead of letting you choose.

That’s an important distinction because it means those apps can’t phone home with your location. Google has updated its guidance to developers to explain what this is really all about: the company is worried about apps that might ask for photos so they can quietly track your location. When you take a photo, it’s sometimes geotagged with the GPS coordinates where you took that picture, and a non-camera app could steal that by piggybacking on a camera app, even if you’d never granted the original app that location permission.

It’s a thing: Shutterfly was accused of harvesting GPS coordinates from EXIF metadata back in 2019, and other apps have tried different tactics to get around Android’s permissions system.

Originally, the new behavior surprised Android programming book author Mark Murphy so much that he submitted it as a bug, only for Android engineers to confirm that it was “intended behavior.”

And ahead of Google’s fuller explanation, I asked some of the biggest third-party app developers how they felt about the move. As the developer of the 10M+ download Camera FV-5 reminded me, it’s just the latest struggle third-party camera app devs are facing right now, as OEMs like Samsung rarely allow alternative apps to access your flashy new phone’s full complement of lenses or the fancier features they’ve built.

The move “definitely will impact our app, and all third party apps, as it will reduce its visibility and add unnecessary friction for the user that wants to use a third party app like ours,” said Camera FV-5 developer Flavio Gonzalez. He added that Google’s workaround “does not make any sense,” as it’s unlikely most app developers will care enough to specifically build in support for a wide range of third-party camera apps like his.

On the other hand, Footej Camera co-founder Stratos Karafotis doesn’t think the restriction is a big deal. While he agreed the Google workaround “doesn’t make sense,” he said users “can still use their favorite camera app” and expects they’ll get used to the change.

Meanwhile, OpenCamera founder Mark Harman, another developer with 10M+ downloads, mostly just hoped users will pick their camera app of choice directly from the Android home screen instead of relying on another app’s intent. “[T]his unfortunately does limit third party camera apps, and means they can’t fully replace the built-in camera app,” he admitted, saying that “it seems a shame in my opinion to take away people’s choice here.” But he didn’t seem worried earlier this week.

I’m a little bit curious about whether Google needed to go this far, though. Why not crack down on bad camera apps that share EXIF metadata instead of distrusting them all by default? Or craft an API that strips EXIF data, perhaps? Why should Samsung, Google, and theoretically Huawei and Xiaomi’s camera apps be trusted any more than the little guys on the Play Store? It made me wonder whether there are any other security or competitive risks Google might be hedging against, but the company tells me this move is specifically about protecting EXIF location metadata from abuse.

On the plus side, Google does have another initiative designed to bring desirable features like Night Mode to more camera apps in the future, with OEMs like Samsung, LG, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Motorola at least partially on board. It’s called CameraX, and perhaps it’ll actually make third-party apps feel more like first-party ones in the future. We’ll have to see if Android phone makers are willing to loan their most interesting camera capabilities out.

Source : TheVergeRead More

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Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

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Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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