Google to Limit Which Apps Can See Other Installed Apps on Android Devices, Evoking Similar Privacy Changes Apple Made in iOS 9

Google will soon make it harder for third-party apps to see what other apps are installed on a user's Android device, a policy change that evokes similar privacy protections Apple introduced in iOS 9, way back in 2015.

play store google
According to XDA-Developers, upcoming amendments to Google's Developer Program Policy will limit which apps can access an Android user's full list of installed apps. As noted by Ars Technica, such lists can provide developers with various private habits like dating preferences, banking information, and political affiliations.

Specifically, any Android 11 app that requests the "QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES" permission can see the full list of apps stored on a user's device. Google says it now regards this data as "personal and sensitive user data." Therefore, starting May 5, Google's app review process will restrict access to the permission to apps that the company believes really need it.

Once the change goes live, apps can only make use of the permission if "core user facing functionality or purpose, requires broad visibility into installed apps on the user's device." Google's list of permitted apps mentions file managers, antivirus apps, and banking apps, including other apps that involve financial transactions.

If an app doesn't meet these requirements, the developer must remove the permission from the app's manifest to comply with the policy, or risk their app being removed from the Google Play Store. If a developer believes their app justifies access, they will have to complete a declaration form explaining why.

Apple made a similar change to its mobile operating system in 2015 to prevent advertisers from accessing app download data, which left third-party apps unable to see all of the apps downloaded on a user's device. Prior to iOS 9, apps like Twitter and Facebook had been misusing a communication API to access the user app download data for ad targeting purposes.

However, Google is only just getting round to introducing a similar privacy restriction on its Play Store, as the company tries to balance the rising demands of privacy-conscious consumers with the financial needs of developers and advertisers.

The search giant has reportedly been discussing internally how it can limit data collection and cross-app tracking on the Android platform in a way that is less stringent than Apple's upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature (ATT), in order to protect its $100 billion annual digital ad sales.

Starting in iOS 14.5, ATT will require apps to get opt-in permission from users to collect their random advertising identifier, which advertisers use to deliver personalized ads and track how effective their campaigns were.

Apple's App Store rules say that app developers cannot collect data from a device for the purpose of identifying it, and developers are responsible for all tracking code in their apps, including any third-party SDKs they're using. Google has already warned iPhone developers that rely on Google ads that Apple's ad-tracking update may mean they'll see a "significant impact" on their ad revenue.

Recently, Google has itself been on the wrong end of a digital privacy issue related to Apple's ‌App Store‌, after it was perceived to be dragging its feet in adding App Privacy labels to its iOS apps in accordance with Apple's rules.

Apple has been enforcing App Privacy labels since December, but many of Google's major apps did not start getting privacy labels until late in February. Google delayed adding the labels for so long that its apps went more than two months without being updated, leading some to claim that it "wanted to hide" the information that it collects.

Top Rated Comments

bluecoast Avatar
2 weeks ago
I know quite a few people who use Android because they think that they are 'alternative' by not following the iPhone herd.

More fool them, given how much data Android itself rips from your phone (to Google) and how much data the average app is allowed to harvest.

iOS isn't perfect, but it's leagues ahead of Android.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
msp3 Avatar
2 weeks ago
Just like with Chrome, random scumbag developers aren't allowed to spy on users anymore, only Google is.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
diddl14 Avatar
2 weeks ago

Google's list of permitted apps mentions file managers, antivirus apps, and banking apps, including other apps that involve financial transactions.
Why does a banking or any "app that involves financial transactions" require access to the full list of installed apps???
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
2 weeks ago
Better late than never, though this is a change many people using older versions of android will likely never see for the near foreseeable future.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mystery hill Avatar
2 weeks ago
It’s a step in the right direction.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Cookie18 Avatar
2 weeks ago
This is great news. I hope Apple and other privacy focused companies continue to force the hand of companies who haven't protected users' privacy.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
apple event hashflag

Twitter Hashflag for April 20 Apple Event Goes Live

Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:21 pm PDT by
Following the overnight Siri leak and subsequent announcement that Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday, April 20, a new Twitter hashflag has appeared to help provide visibility for the event on the platform. For the last several recent events, Apple has utilized hashflags, which are little icons next to hashtags on Twitter, as a way to market its events. The company first started the...
iphone12cameras

Kuo: 2022 iPhones to Feature 48-Megapixel Camera, 8K Video, and 6.1 and 6.7" Sizes With No 5.4" Mini Option

Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:45 pm PDT by
The upcoming 2022 iPhone lineup will feature two 6.1-inch devices and two 6.7-inch devices, with no mini-sized 5.4-inch iPhone, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Two of the iPhones will be high-end models and two of the iPhones will be lower-end models, similar to the current iPhone 12 lineup. Apple introduced the 5.4-inch...
macos catalina serial number

Apple Preparing Rollout of New Randomized Product Serial Numbers Ahead of 'Spring Loaded' Event

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:08 am PDT by
Apple is advising its authorized premium resellers and dealers to prepare for new products with 10 and 12 digital serial numbers, days ahead of when it's expected to reveal a slew of new products. MacRumors previously reported that Apple plans to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021. The company now seems to be preparing for that roll-out, telling...
duanrui iphone13 notch samples

More Leaked iPhone 13 Samples Show Smaller Notch, Repositioned Earpiece and Front Camera

Wednesday April 14, 2021 1:06 am PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has today shared an image of two iPhone 13 "film samples," which show the same rumored smaller notch design coming to the iPhone 13 series that we've seen from other sources. In past tweets, DuanRui has accurately leaked the correct names of the iPhone 12 models and an iPad Air 4 manual revealing its new design, so there's good reason to think this leak is credible, ...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
iPad Pro Mini LED

Mini-LED iPad Pro Expected at Apple Event on April 20 as Production Ramps Up

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:53 am PDT by
Apple today announced that it will be hosting a virtual event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, and one of the new products expected to be unveiled at the event is a new iPad Pro with a Mini-LED display. In a brief snippet shared with paid subscribers, Taiwanese supply chain news website DigiTimes today reported that Apple supplier Ennostar has substantially improved its yield...
apple event particularly innovative article

Gurman: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Won't Feature Anything 'Particularly Innovative'

Thursday April 15, 2021 1:30 am PDT by
Bloomberg's highly-respected Mark Gurman says that he expects nothing "particularly innovative" or "extraordinary" to launch at Apple's "Spring Loaded" event next week, Tuesday, April 20. Gurman made the remarks during an interview for Bloomberg Technology, in which he reaffirmed that Apple will launch a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the higher-end model featuring a brand new...
spotify car thing 1

Spotify Announces the 'Car Thing' as its First Hardware Device

Tuesday April 13, 2021 7:03 am PDT by
Spotify has today announced its first hardware device, the "Car Thing," which is an in-car dash-mounted music and podcast player (via TechCrunch). Spotify is looking to provide a product for customers who want a "more seamless" and personalized in-car listening experience, especially in the large number of cars that do not support modern in-car infotainment systems. The Car Thing is aimed ...