Google will prevent developers from seeing installed apps

Google will prevent developers from seeing installed apps
Google will prevent developers from seeing installed apps

Google has announced a series of security measures for Android 11, the most notable being the removal of developers ‘view of which apps are installed on users’ smartphones. According to the company, this should have happened months ago, but delays caused by the current pandemic ended up hampering its implementation.

Basically, an Android developer can see apps on a smartphone using the “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” function, but on devices with Android 11 (and later versions, when released), it will no longer be usable, except for specific exceptions: banking apps, for example, they will continue to enjoy this benefit – albeit temporarily – as well as file managers, antivirus tools and browsers.

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From Android 11 onwards, developers will need special permission to “see” what apps are on their phone. Image: Mr. Mikla / Shutterstock

Other apps may even request an exception rating, but Google has listed three topics that it will not give up or grant permissions to in any case. Are they:

  • Apps whose permission is not directly linked to their main function (if a photography app, for example, asks to use the function)
  • When the data acquired through the function has the express use of selling information without the user’s consent
  • When the same function can be performed in a less invasive way and without increased visibility

Ensuring user privacy

Google has been promoting these updates to developers because of a growing concern about users’ privacy. When an app creator has the vision brought by the “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” function, he also sees the information stored by the apps in question (except, of course, direct identifiers and access credentials), such as geolocation information and usage profiles.

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Now, according to an excerpt from Google’s statement, “with respect to the inventory of apps installed on the device from which the user is asked for personal and sensitive information, the use of this permission is only authorized when the main function or purpose of your application requires extensive visibility of what is installed on this user’s device ”.

Google says the changes are valid for Android 11 onwards, but does not clarify whether it brings any retroactive effect to previous versions. The text implies, however, that at least until Android 10, the situation remains as it is today.

The changes predicted by Google will begin to affect developers from May 5, 2021.

Source: Play Console Help

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