Android 11 adding new lockdown on 3rd party camera capabilities
posted Sunday Aug 23, 2020 by Scott Ertz
One of the big reasons why Android has seen huge market success over the past decade has been its open nature. Being based on Linux and offering an open-source version of the operating system was only the beginning. The company has allowed third-party app stores, such as the Galaxy Store and Amazon AppStore. Other companies have even gone so far as to built alternate versions of the OS itself, most notably the Fire OS from Amazon. However, over the years, the company has pulled back some of the openness of the platform. Android 11 will close up another open aspect of the OS.
Unlike iOS, Android allows users to set applications as default. While iOS 14 is introducing this as a new feature later this year for some settings, Android has always been accepting of it. One of the most popular apps to override is the camera app. You can set nearly any camera as your default. That means when you double-tap the power button, your camera of choice opens. It also means that when an app asks to take a picture, the same app will be opened. It's that latter situation that is, unfortunately, coming to an end.
In Android 11, when an app asks to take a picture, only the built-in camera will be allowed to open to take a photo. There is a way around it, but it requires each app developer to do the heavy lifting, identifying each acceptable camera app in its manifest. Of course, this means that only cameras known to the app developer will be allowed, continuing to narrow the scope of third-party cameras.
Google claims that there is a good reason for this lockdown. The explanation is that they are attempting to ensure that EXIF data, particularly location data, based on the permissions declared in the requesting app's manifest. Essentially, they want to ensure that, if the app doesn't declare access to location data, they cannot strip it out of a photo taken and returned from a third-party camera app. The reaction has already been mixed, with developers of these camera apps feeling like Google is trying to push them out of the store. The concerns could be warranted, as Google could easily strip the location data from the EXIF metadata when returning the photo to an app without location permissions through the Android camera API.