Google today announced a number of policy updates for apps distributed through the Play Store. The most influential looks Google restricts most developers from seeing which Android apps are installed on your device.
As part of its ongoing effort to limit the use of high-risk / sensitive permissions, Google restricts which apps can use the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permissions that “provide an inventory of installed apps on a given device.” This applies to apps targeted at API 30+ on devices running Android 11 and later. Enforcement was originally intended to take place earlier, but was delayed in light of COVID-1
Play considers the device inventory of installed apps requested from a user’s device to be personal and sensitive information, and use of the permission is permitted only when the app’s core user facing functionality or purpose requires wide visibility in installed apps on the user’s device.
Applications that may continue to use the permission include device searches, antivirus, file administrators, and browsers. Developers are asked to “adequately justify why a less intrusive method of app visibility will not adequately enable the app’s policy-compatible user facing core functionality.”
The visibility of the inventory of installed apps on a device must be directly related to the main purpose or core functionality that users access in your app.
In the meantime, temporary exemptions will be granted to dedicated banking and digital wallet apps, so they can “gain wide visibility in installed apps for security-only purposes.”
Invalid use cases that are currently explicitly referenced by Google include:
- Where use of the license is not directly related to the main purpose of the app.
- This includes Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing. P2P must be the main purpose of the app to qualify as a permitted use.
- When the data is acquired for the purpose of selling.
- When the required task can be done with a less broad app visibility method.
This policy to restrict access to the list of installed Android apps will take effect on May 5, 2021.
Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.
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