Android 11+ Apps Will No Longer Be Able To See The Apps Installed On A Device, Says Google

In response to the ever-increasing privacy concerns, Google this week has come out with a new series of policy updates. As the changes have been made for apps available on the Play Store, one glimpse of it shows that from now onwards the company is going to limit most developers from knowing the Android apps which you may have installed on your devices.

Google is making it possible by laying down the foundation work for restricting the usage of high-risk/sensitive permissions. Hence, as a result, there will be limitations on what apps can really rely on QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission - the one that is primarily responsible for letting developers know about the inventory of apps installed on a device.

The changes will become applicable for apps with target API 30+ running on Android 11 and newer compatible devices. This enforcement was supposed to take place a lot earlier but the delay occurred because of COVID-19.

While making the announcement Google declared knowing the device inventory of installed apps an act of obtaining personal and sensitive information. So, such permissions will now only be given when if the app’s core functionality requires the all-important information.

The list of applications that will still have the permission includes device search, antivirus, file managers, and browsers. But it would be absolutely necessary for developers to justify how the intrusive method of app visibility will support the functionality of the app or the purpose that users also install one’s app for.

On the other hand, it is expected that temporary exceptions can also be possibly made but those will be exclusive for banking and digital wallet apps while keeping security-based purposes in mind.

Some of the invalid use cases, as clearly mentioned by Google include:
  • If the usage of permission has nothing to do with the core purpose of the app.
  • The core purpose of the app must revolve around P2P in order to qualify for obtaining permission.
  • If the data is required for sale purposes.
  • If the task can be done with a relatively less broad app visibility method.
The changes in policy will come into effect from May 5, 2021.

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