Google limits which apps can see other installed apps on Android as per new Google Policy Update!

The Google Policy update planned for May 2021 has been touted to be bringing in huge changes in terms of privacy enhancements. The new update controls the way the app inventory enquiry is used by the apps.

Google is all set to limit the apps that can have access to the other apps installed on your phone. The new update is a part of the privacy policy enhancement that Google has been looking ahead to. The changes are being introduced to the Developer Program Policy and will come into effect from May 5, 2021.

Google is, in fact, coming up with a host of advancements and new updates – specifically for the Play Store. The most important policy update has been in the field of the developers being able to see the apps that have been installed on your phone. As part of Google’s updated policy changes, the changes would be how QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission can be utilised.

What is QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission?

The QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission is actually provided to the app developers with an advanced ability to see all the packages installed on your phone. As of now, almost every app on Android 11 as of now can view the other apps that have been installed on your computer.

The QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission is specifically designed to provide you access to the controls that include providing a controlled access for and  “controls access to the inventory of installed apps on a device.”  The service is currently providing you access to every app to get access to the complete permission.

What changes are expected in Google Developer Policy?

With the new Developer Privacy Policy, there will be a new Package Visibility policy for controlling access to the other apps installed on your system. Google will now be extremely selective with which apps will request the “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” permission.

Through the blog post on its support page, Google claimed that

Play regards the device inventory of installed apps queried from a user’s device as personal and sensitive information and use of the permission is only permitted when your app’s core user-facing functionality or purpose, requires broad visibility into installed apps on the user’s device,

As per this policy change, an app will be able to use the permission only if it meets a few specific conditions or prerequisites. In all other cases, the app should remove the functionality from its manifest. Google has given a timeframe of 60 days for the app developers to comply with the requirements.

Which use cases and apps will be permitted to use QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission?

As per the Google documentation and information thereof, the only option supported for use of the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES can include

  • 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.

The apps apart from the ones specified above that can be permitted to use the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES  can include

Apps that have a verifiable core purpose involving financial transaction functionality (e.g. dedicated banking, dedicated digital wallet) may obtain broad visibility into installed apps solely for security based purposes.

Apps that have a verifiable core purpose involving financial transaction functionality (e.g. dedicated banking, dedicated digital wallet) may obtain broad visibility into installed apps solely for security based purposes.

The use cases where the permission to see the app information will NOT be permitted can include –

  • Where use of the permission is not directly related to the core purpose of the app.
    • This includes Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing. P2P must be the core purpose of the app in order to qualify as a permitted use.
  • When the data is acquired for the purpose of sale.
  • When the required task can be done with a less broad app visibility method.

The information above is taken from the official blog post from Google.

What changes will you expect?

The new policy change will come up into effect from May 5, 2021. The developers are expected to meet the requirements of the newly designed QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES, and sign a Declaration Form in the Play Console. Any other app that does not meet these requirements will have to comply with the changes, or else they will be removed from the Play Store.

This can be seen as an exceptional option for increasing the user privacy. The new change can make it hard for the apps to spy on what other apps have been installed on your computer. In fact, the option to access the app inventory on an Android device is used for the targeted advertisements. It may also be used for the malicious purposes.

The new changes would definitely be one of the excellent options for achieving an excellent option for a greater degree of performance enhancement. Once the new policy comes into the force, the Android users are set to get access to a far more advanced functionality.

About the author

Max Miller

Max, American by birth, has traveled to many countries as he likes to meet new people, and explore their lifestyle and culture. He has been working as a journalist for some of the popular print magazines before joining New Bulletins. He loves the USA, and he loves to cover the local news. He generally gathers local news and events, then writes about them on this website.

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