Google snuck a questionable feature into the operating system with a recent update. A new permission called “activity recognition” may be tracking your physical activity and sharing it with third-party apps, and there’s no easy way to stop it.
What Is Activity Recognition?
The “activity recognition” permission was shared on Reddit earlier this week. Basically, it allows Google to track your physical activity (biking, running, standing still) using your phone’s built-in sensors and then share that information with third-party apps.
SoundHound and Shazam both appear to be using the permission, though it’s unclear why. Activity recognition is also categorized in the list of “other” permissions, so it won’t show up when an app updates on your phone. The only way to check is to go into each app on your device and look at all of its permissions.
How to Deal With It
There’s also no way to revoke this specific permission either across the board or on an app-by-app basis. If it’s an app you don’t use that often you could always delete it off your phone to avoid sharing your personal information. One Reddit user also suggested preventing those apps from running in the background.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to deal with activity recognition for now. Hopefully Google will offer a fix eventually, but until then you may just have to accept that owning a smartphone means giving up a bit of your privacy.
Google is getting more and more invasive, with Google Maps tracking your location all the time and the Google play store, Inbox and Google Play services (among others) requiring microphone and body sensors permissions for proper operations. Why? Because privacy is dead to Google as well.