App-ops are used for two purposes: Access control and tracking.

App-ops cover a wide variety of functionality from helping with runtime permissions to battery consumption tracking.

App-ops are defined in AppOpsManager as OP_... and need to be continuously numbered. The integer values of the app-ops are not exposed. For app-ops visible to 3rd party apps, the name of the app-op might be exposed as OPSTR_. As the integers are not part of the API, they might (and have) changed between platform versions and OEM implementations. AppOpsManager.opToPublicName and AppOpsManager.strOpToOp allow for conversion between integer and string identifier for the op.

App-ops as access restrictions

App-ops can either be controlled for each uid or for each package. Which one is used depends on the API provider maintaining this app-op.

For any security or privacy related app-ops the provider needs to control the app-op per uid as all security and privacy is based on uid in Android.

App-op used for non-security related tasks are usually controlled per package to provide finer granularity.

Setting the app-op mode

To control access the app-op can be set to:

MODE_DEFAULT : Default behavior, might differ from app-op to app-op

MODE_ALLOWED : Allow the access

MODE_FOREGROUND : Allow the access but only if the app is currently in the foreground

MODE_IGNORED : Don‘t allow the access, i.e. don’t perform the requested action or return placeholder data

MODE_ERRORED : Throw a SecurityException on access. This can be suppressed by using a ...noThrow method to check the mode

The initial state of an app-op is defined in its AppOpInfo. Confusingly the initial state is not always MODE_DEFAULT, if AppOpInfo.Builder.setDefaultMode() is called with a different mode.

Per-package modes can be set using AppOpsManager.setMode and per-uid modes can be set using AppOpsManager.setUidMode.

Warning: Do not use setMode and setUidMode for the same app-op. Due to the way the internal storage for the mode works this can lead to very confusing behavior. If this ever happened by accident this needs to be cleaned up for any affected user as the app-op mode is retained over reboot.

App-ops can also be set via the shell using the appops set command. The target package/uid can be defined via parameters to this command.

The current state of the app-op can be read via the appops get command or via dumpsys appops. If the app-op is not mentioned in the output the app-op is in it's initial state.

For example dumpsys appops:

  Uid 2000:
      COARSE_LOCATION: mode=foreground
      START_FOREGROUND: mode=foreground
      LEGACY_STORAGE: mode=ignore

Guarding access based on app-ops

API providers need to check the mode returned by AppOpsManager.noteOp if they are are allowing access to operations gated by the app-op. AppOpsManager.unsafeCheckOp should be used to check the mode if no access is granted. E.g. this can be for displaying app-op state in the UI or when checking the state before later calling noteOp anyway.

If an operation refers to a time span (e.g. a audio-recording session) the API provider should use AppOpsManager.startOp and AppOpsManager.finishOp instead of noteOp.

noteOp and startOp take a packageName and attributionTag parameter. These need to be read from the calling app's context as Context.getOpPackageName and Context.getAttributionTag, then send to the data provider and then passed on the noteOp/startOp method.

App-ops and permissions

Access guarding is often done in combination with permissions using runtime permissions or app-op permissions . This is preferred over just using an app-op as permissions a concept more familiar to app developers.


The AppOpsService tracks the apps' proc state (== foreground-ness) by following the ActivityManagerService's proc state. It reduces the possible proc states to only those needed for app-ops. It also delays the changes by a settle time. This delay is needed as the proc state can fluctuate when switching apps. By delaying the change the appops service is not affected by those.

In addition to proc state, the AppOpsService also receives process capability update from the ActivityManagerService. Proc capability specifies what while-in-use(MODE_FOREGROUND) operations the proc is allowed to perform in its current proc state. There are three proc capabilities defined so far: PROCESS_CAPABILITY_FOREGROUND_LOCATION, PROCESS_CAPABILITY_FOREGROUND_CAMERA and PROCESS_CAPABILITY_FOREGROUND_MICROPHONE, they correspond to the while-in-use operation of location, camera and microphone (microphone is RECORD_AUDIO).

In ActivityManagerService, PROCESS_STATE_TOP and PROCESS_STATE_PERSISTENT have all three capabilities, PROCESS_STATE_FOREGROUND_SERVICE has capabilities defined by foregroundServiceType that is specified in foreground service's manifest file. A client process can pass its capabilities to service using BIND_INCLUDE_CAPABILITIES flag.

The proc state and capability are used for two use cases: Firstly, Tracking remembers the proc state for each tracked event. Secondly, noteOp/checkOp calls for app-op that are set to MODE_FOREGROUND are translated using the AppOpsService.UidState.evalMode method into MODE_ALLOWED when the app has the capability and MODE_IGNORED when the app does not have the capability. checkOpRaw calls are not affected.

The current proc state and capability for an app can be read from dumpsys appops. The tracking information can be read from dumpsys appops

Uid u0a118:

Instantaneous and long running ops

Some events such as reading the last known location as instantaneous ops, i.e. they happen without taking any relevant time. The data provider should use noteOp to signal to the system that such an event happened.

For events that take some time (such as recording a video) the data provider should call startOp at the beginning of the event and finishOp at the end of th event. It is uncommon but possible that at a given time multiple such events are in progress and hence this is properly handled. While such an event is in progress the app-op is considered active.

For some ops both instantaneous and long running ops are recorded, e.g. recoding a video and taking a picture.

Forwarding (==proxying) operations to another process

Some apps are forwarding access to other apps. E.g. an app might get the location from the system's location provider and then send the location further to a 3rd app. In this case the app passing on the data needs to call AppOpsManager.noteProxyOp to signal the access proxying. This might also make sense inside of a single app if the access is forwarded between two attribution tags of the app. In this case an app-op is noted for the forwarding app (proxy) and the app that received the data (proxied). As any app can do it is important to track how much the system trusts this proxy-access-tracking. For more details see AppOpService.noteProxyOperation.

App-ops for tracking

App-ops track many important events, including all accesses to runtime permission protected APIs. This is done by tracking when an app-op was noted or started. The tracked data can only be read by system components.

Note: Only noteOp/startOp calls are tracked; unsafeCheckOp is not tracked. Hence it is important to eventually call noteOp or startOp when providing access to protected operations or data.

The tracking information can be read from dumpsys appops split by attribution tag, proc state and proxying information with the syntax

    ATTRIBUTION_TAG (or null for default attribution)=[


  READ_CONTACTS (allow):
      Access: [fgsvc-s] 2020-02-14 14:24:10.559 (-3d23h15m43s642ms)
      Access: [fgsvc-tp] 2020-02-14 14:23:58.189 (-3d23h15m56s12ms)
      Access: [fg-tp] 2020-02-17 14:24:54.721 (-23h14m59s480ms)
      Access: [fgsvc-tpd] 2020-02-14 14:26:27.018 (-3d23h13m27s183ms) proxy[uid=10070,, attributionTag=null]
      Access: [fg-tpd] 2020-02-18 02:26:08.711 (-11h13m45s490ms) proxy[uid=10070,, attributionTag=null]
      Access: [bg-tpd] 2020-02-14 14:34:55.310 (-3d23h4m58s891ms) proxy[uid=10070,, attributionTag=null]
      Reject: [fg-s]2020-02-18 08:00:04.444 (-5h39m49s757ms)
      Reject: [bg-s]2020-02-18 08:00:04.427 (-5h39m49s774ms)

For in progress ops above command shows the amount of time the op is already in progress for and how many ops have been started and not yet finished for this package.

    Access: [top-s] 2020-06-18 19:22:38.445 (-27s668ms) duration=+27s670ms
    Running start at: +27s669ms

Tracking an app's own private data accesses

An app can register an AppOpsManager.OnOpNotedCallback to get informed about what accesses the system is tracking for it. As each runtime permission has an associated app-op this API is particularly useful for an app that want to find unexpected private data accesses.


The goal is to trigger a callback to AppOpsManager.OnOpNotedCallback any time a data provider declares that data was sent to the app (i.e. calls AppOpsManager.noteOp). There are four cases

Synchronous data accesses

This is the case where the client calls an API and the data is sent back as the return value of this API call. E.g. LocationManager.getLastKnownLocation returns the last known location as the return value of the method call.

In this case

  1. The client calls into a Android API in the Android framework, e.g. LocationManager
  2. The framework code calls via a Binder call into the data provider, e.g. the LocationManagerService residing in the system server.
  3. Somewhere in the data provider the data provider calls AppOpsManager.noteOp and thereby declares that data was accessed. This data access is recorded in AppOpsManager.sAppOpsNotedInThisBinderTransaction
  4. When the binder call returns the RPC code (Binder/Parcel) calls AppOpsManager.readAndLogNotedAppops which checks is the binder return value contained any prefix indicating that data was accessed. If so the RPC code calls onNoted on the the currently registered OnOpNotedCallback.
  5. The rest of the implementation is up to the client, but one to use the callbacks is for the client to take a stack trace in the onNoted implementation. This stack trace allows to pin point where in the app's code the data access came from.

Syncronous data access by a client via a binder call

In above graphics you can see that

  1. an app (, red) is calling into the android framework (blue).
  2. The call triggers a RPC call into the data provider (green).
  3. The data provider calls AppOpsManager.noteOp (first star)
  4. On the return from the RPC call the framework code (second star) realizes that there was a data access and calls OnOpNotedCallback.onNoted.
  5. If at this time the code in onNoted would take a stack trace it would get what is in the gray box, i.e.
       - android...Manager
         - several android internal RPC methods
           - (extends OnOpNotedCallback.onNoted)

As onNoted also reports the attributionTag and the noted op the app can now build a mapping indicating what code accesses what private data.

Self data accesses

This is similar to the synchronous data access case only that the data provider and client are in the same process. In this case Android's RPC code is no involved and AppOpsManager.noteOp directly triggers OnOpNotedCallback.onSelfNoted. This should be a uncommon case as it is uncommon for an app to provide data, esp. to itself.

If an app takes above suggestion and collects stack traces for synchronous accesses self-accesses can be treated in the same way.

Async data accesses

There are cases where the data access is not directly triggered via an API. E.g. LocationManager.requestLocationUpdates(listener) registers a callback. Once the location subsystem determines a location it calls the registered listener with the data. There can be quite significant time between registering the listener and getting the data. In some cases (e.g. Geo-fencing) it might take days and the app registering for the data and the app receiving the data might not even be the same process or even version.

Hence above suggestion with taking the stack trace to determine what triggered the data access does not work. In this case it is recommended for data providers to come up with a way to help the app developer understand why a data access is triggered. E.g. in the case of LocationManager.requestLocationUpdates(listener) the data provider is setting the message field inAppOpsManager.noteOp to the system-identity hash code of the registered listener. There are convenience methods for that, e.g. AppOpsManager.toReceiverId. This message field is then delivered to the app inside the AsyncNotedAppOp parameter to OnOpNotedCallback.onAsyncNoted.

While this case is not as elegant as the synchronous case, a properly set message can often be enough for the app to figure out where the data access comes from. Async data accesses are less common than synchronous data accesses but they come in more variations. E.g. registered listeners, pending-intents, manifest broadcast receivers, activity starts, etc... Hence there is no one perfect message format. This is why the message field is a free text string.

It is very highly recommended for data providers to set appropriate message parameters for their AppOpsManager.noteOp calls for all times where there is async data access. If no message parameter is set, the system defaults to a stack trace of the data provider code which is often slow and not useful.

Async data accesses also carry the attribution tag, but this can sometimes not be enough. Again, a properly set message parameter is the best choice.

Data providers implemented in native code

Some data providers (e.g. camera a microphone) are implemented using native code. As of now this is not properly hooked up to the Java logic. To make sure to always collect all data accesses all AppOpsManager::noteOp calls from native code trigger an async data access, no matter if the code is in a synchronous RPC or not.

This is not ideal and should be improved.

Getting last data accesses via an API

To get the last accesses for an op or package an app can use AppOpsManager.getPackagesForOps.

Listening to app-op events

System apps (with the appropriate permissions) can listen to most app-op events, such as

noteOp : startWatchingNoted

startOp/finishOp : startWatchingActive

mode changes : startWatchingMode

foreground-ness changes : startWatchingMode using the WATCH_FOREGROUND_CHANGES flag

Watching such events is only ever as good as the tracked events. E.g. if the audio provider does not call startOp for a audio-session, the app's activeness for the record-audio app-op is not changed. Further there were cases where app-ops were noted even though no data was accessed or operation was performed. Hence before relying on the data from app-ops, double check if the data is actually reliable.