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Google Play will limit apps that can see which apps are installed

Each version of Android has seen a refinement of what was once an overly broad application permission system. Today, users can grant or deny permissions on a case-by-case basis and developers must be more direct about the permissions they need and why they need them. There are still some cases, however, in which even the most refined permissions can be abused, forcing Google to tighten the loop. One such case is the ability to see what apps are installed on a phone, and starting next month, Google will start selecting apps that have no business doing so.

Many people install apps without a second thought, sometimes even carelessly, but the list of apps you accumulate is not exactly the innocent and innocuous thing that many might assume it to be. Google Play considers this information personal and confidential, as it may reflect the preferences of a particular person. And, as always, this information can be used for advertising or even espionage purposes.

As such, Google will limit which applications can use its powerful QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission to only a subset of applications that are primarily intended to search for all applications installed on a device. Google defines “core functionality” as the main purpose of the application, without which it becomes quite useless. This includes device search applications, file managers and web browsers.

Google says it can grant temporary exceptions if the application can justify the need for this QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission. He cites financial or banking applications as an example, as they may need to know all the applications installed on a device for security purposes, such as checking for known malicious applications. Applications that use this data for advertising are, of course, a great lack of none.

Previously scheduled to take effect earlier this year, Google has postponed the implementation of the new policy until May 5, 2021. This change, however, affects only applications that specifically target Android 11 or later (API 30 or higher) . As with all major changes to your permission system, this can also inadvertently affect some elusive cases, such as Tasker or advanced user applications, and it remains to be seen who will be the victims this time.

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