Beware! Google’s ‘Activity Recognition’ permission is revealing your physical activity to the company

Google's 'Activity Recognition' Android permission can reveal to company the kind of physical activity that user is doing and the apps they're using on their Android device.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 31, 2017 4:28 pm
Google, Android, Android apps, Google Activity Recognition permission, Google activity tracking, Google tracking activity, Android phone, Google tracking apps, privacy The Android permission uses multiple sensors like gyroscope, proximity, and more to detect whether user is running, walking, standing up, or has left his phone at the desk.

Google’s ‘Activity Recognition’ Android permission can reveal to company the kind of physical activity that user is doing and the apps they’re using on their Android device. The permission is embedded into the ‘Other’ category of app’s permissions page, and there’s no way to disable it. The Activity Recognition Android permission reportedly knows when user’s phone is in a vehicle like on a bicycle; or on a user who’r running, walking.

According to a report in The Independent, the Android permission uses multiple sensors like gyroscope, proximity, and more to detect whether user is running, walking, standing up, or has left his phone at the desk. The website put out a statement from Google, and according to the company “device sensors provide insights into what users are currently doing”.

“The Activity Recognition API automatically detects activities by periodically reading short bursts of sensor data and processing them using machine learning models,” Google said. The search giant adds that detecting user’s activity isn’t simple, thanks to dozens of signals from multiple sensors.

Meanwhile, users took to Reddit to reveal that apps like Shazam and SoundHound can track physical behaviour such as walking and biking. However, the search giant believes that the feature has important use cases when it comes enhancing the phone’s intelligence. For example, it can help in automatically enabling an app to monitor heart-rate when a user starts running, or switching on the car mode when people start driving.

On the flip side, what makes ‘Activity Recognition’ a bit creepy is the fact that user’s can’t disable it. Also, the permission is hidden inside ‘Other’ category of app’s permission, which makes it difficult to detect which apps are actually seeking permission to track physical activity. Currently, the only way to disable ‘Activity Recognition’ seems to be uninstalling apps that ask for this permission.

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