Apr 2nd, 2021

New changes to Google’s Developer Program Policy will go into effect on May 5th, which state that it is restricting apps that can make use of the “QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES” permission in Android. This permission allows an application installed on your Android smartphone to see what other apps are installed. The change provides a bit of clarity on Google’s part, while aiming to greatly improve user privacy.

Google considers the applications that you use and install are “personal and sensitive information”. This new change to the Policy will come into effect if a developer targets API level 30 on Android 11. These are the kinds of apps that Google states will not be “permitted to request the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES permission:

  • Where use of the permission is not directly related to the core purpose of the app.
    • This includes Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing. P2P must be the core purpose of the app in order to qualify as a permitted use.
  • When the data is acquired for the purpose of sale.
  • When the required task can be done with a less broad app visibility method.

Essentially, this means apps like File Managers, Antivirus programs, and others will no longer be able to see what other apps are on your smartphone. The purpose of this new change is to prevent malicious apps from gathering information about you in order to provide targeted advertisements. The only potential caveat for an app to use this permission is if it’s considered part of the “core functionality” of a device.

Although the permission goes into effect on May 5th, Google is requiring all new apps and app updates to target API 30 in Android 11 by November 2021. This gives developers plenty of time to implement the APIs into their apps, and if they don’t abide, new updates will not be able to be pushed to the Play Store or to a user’s phone.

Sources: Google Developer Program Policy via XDA Developers