Android may be the most popular mobile operating system around the world. That is not to necessarily say it is perfect. When it comes to security and privacy, most users security-conscious consumers tend to avoid Android, for a multiple of reasons.
To the list of reasons why security-conscious users shun away from Android devices, you can now add a new permission described as ‘Activity Recognition.’ This new feature adds your physical activities like walking, running, driving, or sitting with other apps on your phone.
You would assume that the new feature will request for your permission – giving you the option to accept or decline the new ‘Activity Recognition’ – like it is usually the case. This new feature is not only activated by default; there is no option of turning it off or disabling it.
This feature was first unveiled by the Redditor l0__________ol after noticing a new permission added to Shazam and SoundHound when you need to run it. Ironically, when you install a new app, the ‘Activity Recognition’ does now show up. It also does not show up when you are updating the app, as it appears to be hidden under ‘other’ section of apps permission requests.
Upon a more in-depth analysis, it appears the new permission is intertwined with the Google Play Services as it uses the physical sensors to determine the user’s physical activity. This capability has been known to be reserved for Google Play Services. Additionally, to disable this feature, it would mean to disable Google Play Service. Doing that would again mean your other applications will stop functioning, and everything else tied to your Google account might disappear.
Redditor l0__________ol goes further to explain that Google Play Services use sensor data; based on hardware like accelerometer, gyroscope, and orientation sensors, to determine your body position and to a stretch, what your phone is doing.
As it works out, another app can request this information from Google Play Services without your explicit permission. Not that you were even made aware that it will be querying such information in the first place, and if you become aware of it, you cannot turn it off.
There are grounds to believe that iOS users too could be under the same security and privacy threat. As iOS allows developers use APIs to access the sensor data using phone’s hardware like accelerometer without the explicit permission or knowledge of the users.