US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researchers released a custom version of Android designed to simplify inclusion of stringent safeguards by app developers, in a bid to address concerns around data privacy.

The open-source Privacy Enhancements for Android (PE for Android) platform was built by teams at Two Six Labs and Raytheon BBN Technologies as part of DARPA’s privacy-focused Brandeis programme.

Brandeis programme manager Joshua Baron told Mobile World Live the platform aims to address a knowledge gap among app developers, which researchers found often aren’t familiar with “the expected privacy disclosures or regulations that may guide their application’s use”.

“It’s our experience that many application developers would prefer to not be the creator of a vehicle for malicious or surreptitious access to users’ personal data,” he said, adding the platform makes it easier for them to use “privacy preserving technologies”.

PE for Android offers access to a private data service, which enables isolation and secure processing of sensitive user information to minimise the risk of data exposure. It also reduces the intrusiveness of information requests by providing less sensitive details, for example providing an area code in place of GPS details for location requests.

A policy management API offers individuals more details on how their data is used and greater control of permissions.

In 2012, the US National Security Agency deployed a version of Android with security enhancements.