Latest Android 12 beta puts privacy front and centre

Developers roll out a privacy dashboard alongside shortcuts to limit app access to components like the microphone and camera

Android OS on a smartphone

Google has launched the second build of the Android 12 Public Beta with participating Pixel users able to make use of a swathe of widely-anticipated privacy features.

Android 12 Beta 2 adds several features that were announced at the Google I/O developer conference in May but weren't included with the first beta. 

Chief among these is a privacy dashboard that gives users insights into the various permissions that apps request, including access to location, the microphone, and the camera.

"Today we're releasing the second Beta of Android 12 for you to try. Beta 2 adds new privacy features like the Privacy Dashboard and continues our work of refining the release," said Android's VP of engineering, Dave Burke.

"End-to-end there's a lot for developers in Android 12 - from the redesigned UI and app widgets, to rich haptics, improved video, and image quality, privacy features like approximate location, and much more."

The dashboard, accessible from the settings menu, also comes packaged with quick toggles so users can cut an app's access to hardware components. There's also an indicator in the status bar to show when either the microphone or camera are being accessed.

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The latest beta version also adds functionality to manage network connections, replacing the Wi-Fi widget in the notifications centre with the Internet panel. This panel helps users switch between providers and troubleshoot connectivity issues.

Much of the changes with Android 12, in this latest beta as well as the last, aren't set in stone and are subject to change based on feedback from Pixel users testing the operating system. There's set to be at least one more beta release before Android 12 achieves 'platform stability' in August. There may then be one final beta release ahead of the final release later this year.

Android 12 will instigate a complete refresh of the UI, bringing a new set of colours, shapes, and animations to the way that users navigate the system. The design language, dubbed Material You by developers, will make Android more "expressive, dynamic and personal".

As detailed at the I/O conference, the development team has made significant investments in upgrading performance in the new operating system. These comprise improvements to foundational system performance, battery life efficiencies, changes to foreground services, media quality, as well as new tools to optimise apps.

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