Files updated by Google]Scoped Storage in Android Q Beta 2 limits the way applications can access files

Privacy has been one of the main themes with Android Q so far. Permissions can be blocked for background applications, clipboard managers have been removed, and the permissions for older applications are changing. It seems that Google is just beginning, because Android Q Beta 2 makes major changes to the way applications can access local files.

Applications are already encouraged to use their own folders to store data or use one of the generic system folders in the main directory (Music, Downloads, etc.). Android Q Beta 2 goes one step further by limiting application access to files stored on internal and external storage.

With Scoped Storage, Android creates isolated storage sandboxes for each application. Applications no longer need special permissions to write to their own files and no other application can directly access the sandbox of another application. The default Photos, Videos, Music, and Downloads folders are "shared collections". which means that they are accessible by any application.

Several new permissions go hand in hand with Scoped Storage. READ_MEDIA_AUDIO grants permission to the Music folder, READ_MEDIA_IMAGES gives access to the Photos folder and READ_MEDIA_VIDEO to the Videos folder.

There are also other changes regarding file access. By default, Android Q removes Exif data from images when applications attempt to access it, unless they have the new ACCESS_MEDIA_LOCATION permission. Exif information usually contains the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken, as well as other data about the phone's cameras.

Android Q also assigns unique names to all external storage devices (USB sticks, SD cards, etc.). On Android 9 Pie and lower versions, they were all listed as a single "external" volume.

Finally, Android Q includes a "compatibility mode" that disables these new restrictions. The mode is enabled only for applications installed before updating a device to Android Q, and if the application is still designed for Android 9 Pie or an earlier version. Uninstall and reinstall the application will not reactivate the compatibility mode.

This is perhaps the most important Android Q API change, as it represents a major change in Android's file presentation. Instead of the free file system used by desktop operating systems, most application data will remain confidential. Most people will probably not notice anything different, but the existing storage permissions do not disappear for the moment.

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