Google is clamping down on Android apps that spy on your installed apps

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Google Pixel 5 Review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has announced new changes to its Developer Program Policy.
  • The new changes make it a lot more difficult for apps to see what other apps are installed on an Android device.
  • Google says the changes will come into effect on May 5.

Google has announced a few key changes to its Developer Program Policy, restricting the use of the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission, which lets apps see what other apps are installed on your Android phone or tablet. Google says it has introduced the new changes to improve user privacy, as it considers the list of installed apps as personal and sensitive information.

According to a post on Google's Play Console Help page, the changes will come into effect on May 5, 2021. However, the new policy changes will only affect apps that target Android 11 (API level 30), which means the privacy upgrade will largely be limited to only the best Android phones initially.

Once the new changes come into effect, the use of QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission will only be allowed if an app has a core purpose to search for other apps installed on the device.

Permitted use involves apps that must discover any and all installed apps on the device, for awareness or interoperability purposes may have eligibility for the permission. Permitted use includes; device search, antivirus apps, file managers, and browsers.Apps granted access to this permission must comply with the User Data policies, including the Prominent Disclosure and Consent requirements, and may not extend its use to undisclosed or invalid purposes.

Developers whose apps do not meet the new policy requirements for the use of the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission will have to declare it and other high-risk permissions using the Declaration Form in Play Console. Developers who fail to submit a Declaration Form or meet the new requirements may be removed from the Google Play Store to discourage "deceptive and non-declared uses of these permissions."

Babu Mohan
News Writer