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Google is limiting which apps can see everything else you’ve installed

The change is coming on May 5

Soon, Google will be more selective about which apps on the Play Store can see all the other apps you’ve installed (via XDA-Developers). As Ars Technica points out, its list of installed apps, innocent as it sounds, can communicate to developers personal characteristics, such as dating preferences and political affiliations. Therefore, as of May 5, 2021, developers will have to provide a good reason for Google to allow you to access information like this.

Android 11 apps that currently request the “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” permission can see the complete list of apps stored on your device. But Google recently updated its Developer Program Policy and now considers that information to be “personal and confidential user data”, restricting which applications are allowed to use it.

As soon as the change takes effect in May, applications will only be able to use the permission if their “main user-oriented functionality or purpose requires broad visibility of the applications installed on the user’s device”. Examples of applications that will be allowed to continue using this permission include file managers, browsers and anti-virus applications that need the data “for awareness or interoperability purposes”. Banking applications, digital wallet applications and any other application involving “financial transaction functionality” will be approved “for security purposes”.

Apps that do not have a justifiable use case for the risk of being allowed to be removed from the Google Play Store. All developers who wish to maintain permission on their applications must complete a declaration form justifying their use.

If you are concerned that developers may still misuse the permission, Google’s documentation clearly states that it will be difficult to breach apps, whether they’re new to the Play Store or just updates to existing apps. Google may suspend applications and possibly terminate developer accounts.

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