Google has recently made some much-needed privacy changes to its Developer Program Policy. According to Google, it will be harder for most apps to see what other apps are installed on your device. Google states that a full list of apps installed on a user’s device is regarded as a user’s sensitive information; therefore, limiting which apps can access this information is the right thing to do.
Google is doing that by restricting which apps can request QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission which is currently needed for apps targeting API level 30 in Android 11 and above.
The use of QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission will only be permitted when the app’s core functionality depends on querying the installed apps. However, even after that, developers will have to “sufficiently justify why a less intrusive method of app visibility will not sufficiently enable your app’s policy-compliant user-facing core functionality.”
Permitted use involves apps that must discover any 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.
If an app doesn’t meet Google’s requirements, then the developer will have to remove the permission from the manifest so the app can comply with the Play Policy. Even after meeting the requirements, the app developer will have to submit a Declaration Form in the Play Console and a failure to submit this form or not to meet the requirements could result in the said app being removed from the Google Play Store.
According to sources, the policy will be brought into effect starting May 5th, 2021. Also, starting November 2021, all new apps and app updates submitted to Google Play will be required to target Android 11 or above.
It seems that Google is taking some big steps into protecting its user’s privacy on its open-source operating platform. The new change will make it harder for other apps to spy on what apps you are using on your device.