Google is limiting which Android apps can see all other apps installed on your device

Query_All_Packages lets an app read your entire app list, which can contain sensitive information, like your passwords, banking information, more.

Google is making some changes to the Developer Program Policy with a new privacy restriction announced for the Play store apps. Starting 5 May 2021, the Query_All_Packages permission on Android 11 will be flagged as "sensitive" on the Google Play Store. This means, Google will allow access to Query_All_packages only if it feels that the apps really need it. Arstechnica points out that Query_All_Packages lets an app read your entire app list, which can contain sensitive information, like your dating preferences, passwords, banking information, political affiliation, among others.

Android 11 running on a Pixel device

Android 11 running on a Pixel device

Once the change come into effect, according to Google's new Developer Program Policy, apps can only use the permission if their "core user facing functionality or purpose, requires broad visibility into installed apps on the user’s device." "Visibility to the inventory of installed apps on a device must be directly related to the core purpose or core functionality that users access within your app", Google writes on the developer blog.

Google says that only apps that involve "financial transaction functionality" or "contains anti-virus or security functionality" will get the access.

Apps that aren't able to justify the use case will be removed from the Google Play Store. And developers who want to keep the permission in their apps will be required to submit a declaration justifying the use.

Google says that the new developer restriction will be for both new and old apps on the Play store. Additionally, it says non compliance could lead to suspension or even possibly a termination of developer accounts.

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