Have you ever wondered why some apps ask for permission to view other apps on your smartphone when you are installing it? It sure is normal when it comes to an application that has a functionality that would need that information. But some may only use it for advertising or data sales purposes. And so Google is finally taking action to restrict which Android apps will be able to access the list of apps installed on your phone. Changes to Google’s Developer Program Policy will make it harder for apps to see that list and won’t require users to grant permissions just to be able to use the app.
According to the XDA developers, changes have already been made to Google’s policy for developers to have difficulty trying to access user-installed applications. Specifically, the Query_All_Packages permission will only be allowed if that is part of the core functionality of the app. Developers will also have to justify why “a less intrusive method of application visibility will not sufficiently enable core functionality for the user who is compliant with their application policies.”
Some of the permitted uses where it will be allowed include searching for devices, antivirus applications, file managers, and browsers. If they do not meet any of the requirements, the application must remove the permission in order to comply with the new Play Policy. And even if they meet the requirements, the developer will have to sign a declaration form, and if they don’t, the app may be removed from the Google Play Store.
Obviously, a person’s installed apps list should be “personal and confidential information” and yet there are many apps that still ask for it. The permission will take effect when a developer is targeting API level 30 (Android 11). The new policy will go into effect from May 2021, but all new apps and app updates will need to target Android 11 and above by November 2021, so this will hopefully force many developers to do so and strengthen the new policy.
This is just the latest in Google’s efforts to restrict permissions on Android devices for legitimate security and privacy reasons. Previously, they actually restricted call and text permissions, but they also affected legitimate apps. Hopefully this will be better and can be better implemented as well.