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Google restricts which apps can see everything else you have installed



Google will soon be more selective about which apps in the Play Store can see all the other apps you have installed (via XDA developers). As Ars Technica points out, the list of installed apps, innocent as it may seem, can communicate to developers personal characteristics such as dating preferences and political affiliations. So as of May 5, 2021, developers must provide a very good reason why Google should allow you to access information like that.

Android 11 apps that are currently requesting “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” permission can see the full list of apps you have stored on your device. However, Google recently updated its developer application policy and now considers the information to be “personal and sensitive user data”

;, restricting which apps are allowed to use it.

When the change takes effect in May, apps can only use the permission if their “core-user-friendly functionality or purpose requires wide visibility in apps installed on the user’s device.” Examples of apps that are allowed to continue using this permission include file administrators, browsers, and antivirus apps that need the data “for awareness or interoperability purposes.” Banking apps, digital wallet apps, and other apps that involve “financial transaction functionality” will get a pass “for security-based purposes.”

Apps that do not have a valid use case for the authorization risk will be removed from the Google Play Store. All developers who want to keep the permission in their apps must fill out a declaration form that justifies their use of it.

In case you are worried that developers may still abuse the license, Google’s documentation clearly states that it will hit hard on infringing apps, whether they are new in the Play Store or just updates to existing apps. Google may suspend apps and possibly terminate developer accounts.


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