Requesting access to location in the background

Academy Logo

Free training.

Find out more about how you can minimise your use of device location and view examples of the device location declaration on the Academy for App Success.

You can now submit your app for feedback on location in the background access by completing the Location permissions declaration form in Play Console.

Your app should not request access to location in the background unless it’s required. If your app requests access to location in the background but it’s not critical to the app’s core functionality, you must remove it from your app and/or implement location access in the foreground, such as when your app’s activity is visible to users. You can find details on policy-compliant implementation below.

 The following video provides information about declaring permissions and providing in-app disclosures:

All apps that access location in the background will need to be approved or app updates may be blocked and your app may be removed from Google Play.

About the process

Beginning from 1 April 2022, all apps must also post a privacy policy in the Google Play Console and within the app itself.

When reviewing your app, we’ll consider:

  • Does the feature deliver clear value to the user?
    • Examples of feature categories that deliver significant user benefits include physical safety, perceived safety and health/fitness. Examples of feature categories that have minimal user benefit based on user location may include ads, analytics, personalisation, entertainment and convenience.
  • Would users expect the app to access their location in the background?
  • Is the feature important to the core purpose of the app?
  • Can you deliver the same experience without accessing location in the background?

Note: This list is not exhaustive, but intended to give you an idea of how your app's use of location permissions may be reviewed and interpreted.

Core functionality is defined as the main purpose of the app. This may comprise a set of core features, which must all be prominently documented and promoted in the app's description. Without the core feature(s), the app is 'broken' or rendered unusable.

Get approval for your app's access to location in the background

Before you start

You should complete these steps before you complete the permissions declaration form to declare your app’s access to location in the background. They’ll help you understand best practices for accessing location data, alternative options and how you can make location data access clearer to users.

Step 1: Review best practices for accessing location

Understand requirements

Developers must meet the following requirements for accessing location data in their apps:

  • You should never request location permissions from users for the sole purpose of advertising or analytics.
  • Background location may only be used to provide features beneficial to the user and relevant to the core functionality of the app.
  • Apps designed specifically for children must comply with the Designed for Families policy.

Review best practices

We encourage all developers to review the following best practices for accessing location data in their apps:

  • Review the background location access checklist to identify any potential access in your code. Remember that you are also responsible for ensuring that all third-party SDKs or libraries that you use comply with our policies, including use of location permissions. All app bundles or APKs across all active release tracks (including internal test, closed and open tracks) are subject to review.
  • Minimise your use of location by using the minimum scope necessary to provide a feature (e.g. coarse instead of fine, foreground instead of background). Users should reasonably expect that the feature or service needs the level of location requested. For example, we may reject apps that request or access background location without adequate justification.
  • Review privacy best practices and ensure that you have the proper disclosure and privacy policies in place.
Step 2: Consider alternatives to accessing location in the background

Apps are allowed to access location using foreground service (when the app only has foreground access, e.g. 'while in use') permission if the use has been initiated as a continuation of an in-app user-initiated action, and is terminated immediately after the intended use case of the user-initiated action is completed by the application.

Access to location is considered in the foreground if it happens while the app is open and visible to the user. If the user closes the app, or hits the Home button to return to their main screen, then the app’s access to location is considered in the background.

Location in the foreground examples

Below is a list of potential features that can often be used with access to location in the foreground instead. Having these features does not mean that your app will be automatically rejected. However, if these features are the only reason that your app requires access to location in the background, then the chances of rejection are higher.

  • Suggest nearby friends/players/connections to add only when the user is in the app (excludes suggesting nearby friends/players/connections while the app is closed)
  • Personalised in-app content based on user location (i.e. music playlist for home, local news, etc.) without any notification/alert/feature to user when the app is closed 
  • Restrict content to enforce region-based Digital Rights Management
  • Delivery/service (for example, food, package or taxi ride) tracking on the user side (not driver)
  • Turn-by-turn navigation (not applicable if any functionality is done while the user is outside the app, such as passive tracking of routes/steps, monitoring when a user starts or stops driving, etc.)
  • Aggregating user location data to show traffic patterns/high congestion points or map nearby Internet speeds

Note that this is not an exhaustive list, and each app will be evaluated based on its declared core functionality. However, if your app only has functionalities such as those above that require use of location in the background, please consider replacing location access in the background with access to location in the foreground instead.

Step 3: Make access to location in the background clear to users

If you plan to use location in the background in your app, you should communicate this to users in the Google Play Store Listing via your app description, screenshots and (if applicable) title or icon. 

Here are some suggestions on how to highlight use of location in the background to users:

  • Provide a short description to signal 'location' (for example, 'find anywhere' or 'always know where').
  • Include an in-app screenshot that shows a map/user location or geotagged images. 
  • If applicable, your app title or icon may also signal the location feature of your app.

Declaration requirements

When completing the permissions declaration form, you’ll also need to complete the steps below so that Google can evaluate your app’s access to location in the background.

Step 4: Provide a video demonstration

As part of the permissions declaration, you must provide a link to a short video that demonstrates the location-based feature in your app that requires access to location in the background (while the app is not in use). 

You can see an example of what this video demonstration should look like below.

See an example video demonstration

Video requirements

The video should demonstrate the background location feature and the required steps to encounter and enable this feature in-app. The video should show:

  • The feature being activated from the background
  • The prominent in-app disclosure dialogue displayed to users (described below)
  • Runtime prompt

The recommended duration is 30 seconds or less. A YouTube link is the preferred video format, but Google Drive storage links to an mp4 or other common video file formats are also supported.

Note:

  • If the feature does not have a user-facing interface when location in the background is active, please note this in your declaration and demonstrate the feature or its impacts as much as possible in the video.
  • Ensure that your video is made using an Android device.
Step 5: Provide prominent in-app disclosure

If your app accesses location in the background, you must provide an in-app disclosure of your data access, collection, use and sharing. 

You can see an example of an acceptable in-app disclosure below.

See an example of prominent in-app disclosure

In-app disclosure requirements

The in-app disclosure:

  • Must be within the app itself, not only in the app description or on a website;
  • Must be displayed in the normal usage of the app and not require the user to navigate into a menu or settings;
  • Must describe the data being accessed or collected;
  • Must explain how the data will be used and/or shared;
  • Cannot only be placed in a privacy policy or Terms of Service; and
  • Cannot be included with other disclosures unrelated to personal or sensitive data collection.
  • Does not need explicit consent such as an 'accept' or 'I understand' granted by the user as this is done in the runtime prompt that immediately follows; enabling the user to close or swipe away are acceptable ways to migrate out of the disclosure.

The language in the disclosure MUST include the following elements:

  1. The term 'location'
  2. Indication that the nature of usage is in the background by using one of the following phrases 'background'/'when the app is closed'/'always in use'/'when the app is not in use'
  3. A list of all the features that use location in the background
  4. If you extend permitted usage to ads, you must include the following: 'used to provide ads/support advertising/support ads'. (Choose the most accurate phrasing).

Recommended disclosure statement formats

To meet the policy requirements, it’s recommended that you reference the following example formats. The second example includes the use of location for ads .The use of location data for ads purposes must be in compliance with the Use of location data for ads policies. Choose the most relevant phrasing:

  • '[This app] collects location data to enable ["feature"], ["feature"] and ["feature"] even when the app is closed or not in use.' 
  • '[This app] collects location data to enable ["feature"], ["feature"] and ["feature"] even when the app is closed or not in use and it is also used to support advertising.'

    Example: 'Fitness Funds collects location data to enable fitness tracking even when the app is closed or not in use.'

The prominent disclosure may include other information to ensure compliance to policy requirements and clarity for users but must at least include the above, where relevant.

Note: If the feature does not have a user-facing interface when location in the background is active, please surface the prominent disclosure notification when the app is opened for the first time instead.

Privacy policy

Adding a privacy policy to your app's Store Listing helps to provide transparency about how you treat sensitive user and device data. The privacy policy must, together with any in-app disclosures, comprehensively disclose how your app collects, uses and shares user data, including the types of parties with whom it’s shared. You should consult your own legal representative to advise you of what is required.

  • You must link to a privacy policy on your app's Store Listing page and within your app. 
  • Make sure that your privacy policy is available on an active URL, references to your app and specifically covers user privacy.
  • If your app uses location in the background, your privacy policy must contain appropriate related disclosures, reference location data, and provide information about the app’s usage of location data.
  • Make sure that your privacy policy page is clearly labelled as such in the title or URL and within the body of the page.

Learn more

Frequently asked questions

Can I publish app updates while still working on location compliance?

Prior to policy enforcement dates (18 January 2021 for all new apps and 29 March 2021 for all existing apps), you may publish app updates without being compliant with location policy.

To do this, re-submit (you can use the same Android App Bundle or APK and version), under 'Declare sensitive location permission', select 'No, this release does not meet the location permission policy'. This will allow you to publish app updates without going through location review while you’re continuing to work towards making your app compliant.

My app has multiple features that use location in the background. What should I do?

You can only declare one app feature that uses location in the background for review. If your app contains multiple features that are both core to the app’s purpose and use location in the background, select the feature that provides the most significant benefit to the user. 

For example, a social networking app that uses location in the background to notify users of nearby offers and to allow users to continuously share their location with friends. The friend sharing feature should be used on your permission declaration as it delivers more user benefit (connection/utility) than the location-contextual ads (convenience/personalisation).

Google Play will establish location in the background eligibility based upon review of the primary app feature that you declare; however, approval is contingent upon using location in the background being granted at the app level. It is your responsibility to ensure that any other features that may use location in the background are policy compliant. This includes meeting requirements pertaining to prominent user-facing in-app disclosure, as described in the 'Prominent disclosure' section above.

Where do I find the declaration?

The Location permissions declaration form will be available in Play Console on 30 September 2020. You can find the form here manually by going to the App content page, clicking Start under 'Sensitive app permissions', then clicking Start under 'location permissions'.

If you're seeing prompts for other forms such as App access rights or authority declaration forms, please complete these first as they’re required steps in preparing your app for review in Play Console. Go to Prepare your app for review for detailed instructions.

If you do not see the declaration prompt in Console, please confirm that you are using one of the sensitive location permissions according to the target SDK level of your app:

  • If your app bundle or APK targets Android 10 or newer (SDK level 29 or higher) and contains ACCESS_BACKGROUND_LOCATION permission in the manifest, you will be directed to complete details on location usage
  • If your app bundle or APK targets Android 9 or older (SDK level 28 or lower) and contains either ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION or ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION, you will need to indicate your intention to access location in the background and you will then be directed to complete details on location usage.
What if I have an old APK with location permissions and can't make code changes?

If you have old APKs with location permissions and you are no longer able to make code changes to these APKs, you may apply for a policy exception.

In order to qualify for the exception, you must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • You must declare the specific APK(s) for which you would like an exception.
  • The APKs requesting an exception must have been published before 1 January 2019.
  • You must have alternative APKs served to users on Android Oreo (API Level 26) or higher, and these must be compliant with the location Permission policy.
  • The APKs requesting an exception must represent a very small percentage (no more than low single-digit %) of your total install base.

Google Play will review the request and grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Alternatively, you may choose to unpublish the violating APKs to be compliant with the location permissions policy.

What inputs will I need to provide in the declaration?

The location declaration asks you to provide inputs to the following questions:

  1. App purpose: What is the main purpose of your app?
  2. Location access: Why does your app need access to location in the background? 
    1. Tell us about one location-based feature in your app that requires access to location in the background, and explain why it can’t be implemented without this access. The feature should be related to the main purpose of your app. Approval will be granted for your entire app, not just for this single feature. 
    2. Please note that we can only evaluate one feature at a time and inclusion of multiple features will result in the rejection of your app.
  3. Video instructions: Provide a link to a short video which shows the feature that you’ve described above being used in your app. The video should include the prominent disclosure dialogue that is shown to users. Recommended 30 seconds or shorter.
Is permission approval perpetual and when do I need to update?

It is the developer's responsibility to ensure that apps that are approved for background location usage remain compliant in all future submissions. App updates will be reviewed in accordance with Play policies; material changes to your app may impact your app's approval for background location and result in additional reviews. If there is a change in app feature using background location, please submit a new declaration form and it will be reviewed accordingly.

How do I remove location in the background?

If you have determined that your app does not require location in the background, complete the following steps to remove background usage and reach compliance. Please note that you will need to submit your app for review if the following permissions are used in any app bundles or APKs, including non-production tracks. You can find a listing of impacted app bundles or APKs in Play Console on the App content page (Policy > App content > Sensitive app permissions > Show summary):

  • If you previously had any non-compliant app bundles or APKs accessing background location, make sure that the non-compliant versions are not in any of your current releases, even if you do not use certain tracks. 
    • Open the App bundle explorer page (Release > App bundle explorer) to check whether a certain version is active.
    • When submitting a new app bundle APK to supersede the previous, non-compliant app bundle or APK, please make sure that the non-compliant app bundle or APK is under the 'Not included' section before rolling out the new release. 
    • Ensure that any new, compliant release is rolled out to 100% and completely deactivates non-compliant app bundles or APKs. 

If you are still facing issues after examining your code paths and restricting usage to foreground purposes only, please review any third-party SDKs used in the app that may be accessing location in the background.

Related content

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?

Need more help?

Sign in for additional support options to quickly solve your issue

Search
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu
Search Help Centre
true
92637
false