It’s late summer in the Northern Hemisphere, which means new operating systems for phones are coming. In a few weeks, Apple will release iOS 16 for millions of iPhones and iPads around the world. Google has meanwhile already made the latest version of Android available – on some phones you can now download Android 13.
The latest version of the Android operating system is more “evolution than revolution”, with most of the changes being smaller than in previous iterations. But Android’s security team is trying to simplify people’s privacy options in Android 13. This version of the operating system includes under-the-hood changes for app developers and some streamlined security options for users.
You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the privacy and security settings on your phone. However, when you download a new operating system, it’s worth scrolling for a few minutes and tapping through all the options you haven’t used in the past 12 months. Here’s what to look for on Android 13.
Clamp the app permissions
In Android 12, Google introduced permissions for nearby devices. This is designed to prevent your headphone app from requesting your exact location when it tries to connect wirelessly to your headphones. Android 13 extends these controls to prevent apps from using Wi-Fi permissions to collect your location data. In their code, app developers must specify that they will never use Wi-Fi APIs to access location information.
androids Privacy dashboard has also been updated. The dashboard, which is accessible via Settings > Privacy, shows the permissions you’ve given apps to use, including the apps that can access your camera, contacts, and multiple other sensors and types of data. It now shows which apps have used each permission in the past seven days, instead of just 24 hours.
Some of the privacy changes in Android 13 don’t require you to do anything, but it’s still worth knowing about them. For example, the operating system will automatically start deleting your clipboard history after a short while so that apps don’t rummage through the information you previously copied. From now on, apps that use Google’s advertising ID, a unique code assigned to your device, must indicate the advertising ID permission in their documentation. “If your app doesn’t give this permission when targeting Android 13 or later, the advertising ID will be automatically removed and replaced with a string of zeros,” Google says.
If you want to use a photo you took in another app, for example as a Twitter profile picture or to share images with friends, your device uses Photo Picker. This will load a screen with the photos on your device and give you the option to use them in the app you are in. The new privacy changes in Android 13 mean you don’t automatically give an app access to all your photos and videos. Instead, the photo picker now only allows the app to access the photos you allow.
In addition, Android’s developer pages state that if apps want to use images, audio, or video that other apps have created, they must explicitly state what type of files they want access to and give you clear indications that this will happen.
More notification control
Few things are more annoying than apps that send out a constant barrage of notifications. And there are some notifications that you may not want to appear on your screen for everyone around. While it’s been possible to manage app notifications for some time now, Android 13 makes it easier to do so from the get-go. Now when you first open or use an app for the first time in a while, you will be asked if you want it to send you notifications. Spammed notifications, be gone.
Other security and privacy options
While you’re thinking about your phone’s privacy settings, it’s worth taking a look at your device’s other options to improve your overall protection. There may be previous changes that you missed. The vast majority of the settings below can be changed by going to . to go Settings on your Android and then follow the specific options.
In the Safety section Android gives you an overview of the status of your device. It shows you when the last security update was applied, lets you set up a screen lock and fingerprint or biometric unlock (if your device supports them), and lets you go through Google’s broader security check that looks at the current status of your accounts. (Later this year, Android will introduce a new Security & Privacy option that will put all these settings in one place.)
In the Privacy menu, there are a few things you need to change. The Privacy dashboard, as described above, shows you which apps have used which sensors and data on your phone in the past seven days. After viewing this, you should click . to tap Consent Manager, where you can see all the sensors and types of data your phone can give to apps. These range from your location and camera access to your calendar and files. You need to review each of the permissions and decide whether an app really needs access to them to function.
Next in Privacyyou should open Google Location History and Activity buttons. Both options are linked to your wider Google account(s), but the settings here allow you to control what data Google keeps about you – there are many. These options allow you to clear your web and activity data, the locations Google tracks your movements, and details such as YouTube search history.
Then go to Privacy and Ads. Here you can use Reset Ad ID to change the ID Google assigned to your phone. This advertising ID is used by apps and advertisers across the web to track your interests and potentially show you scary personalized ads. In addition to resetting your advertising ID, there is an option to: Remove Advertising IDwhich means “apps can no longer use this advertising ID to show you personalized ads.”
Finally, while thinking about your digital privacy and security, make sure you use a password manager to protect your online life and use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.