New Google Android update restricts app visibility on phones

Illustration for the article titled Google is cracking down on apps that can see all the other apps you have installed

Photo: Sam Rutherford

As Google continues to update its privacy and security policies, ‘s is now making a major change to Android that will significantly limit the ability to Android apps to see all other applications you have installed on your device.

In a recent developer announcement, Google outlined an update to its policies that will restrict “broad app visibility ”on Android 11 or later. Wide application visibility is a feature that allows applications to query your device and potentially see what other applications you have installed. Google says that it considers data about other applications installed on a device to be confidential information and is making this change to help increase user privacy.

More specifically, Google says that any application that “can operate with a higher package visibility statement with specific scope”You cannot use the QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES call, which returns a list of all the applications on your Android device, while the broad visibility of the application is “restricted to specific use cases where knowledge and / or interoperability with each and every application on the device is required for the application to work.”

The types of applications that will be allowed to have broad application visibility include applications such as file managers, browsers, antivirus applications, and others that simply cannot function without deeper access to other applications on your device, which means that It will be especially important to ensure that these types of applications come from safe and reliable places.

In addition, in the future, Google says that developers will need to adequately justify the use of wide visibility app calls or remove the app’s permission to view a device’s app manifest. Starting April 1, Google offers developers a 30-day grace period to edit or update their apps in response to the new policy. However, developers who do not comply by May 5 run the risk of having their apps removed or removed from the Google Play store.

For the last year or so, Google has been cracking down on app permissions within Android, and this recent move to severely restrict broad app visibility is another small but important step in increasing the security of our apps. and devices. And with Google set to force developers to build apps targeting Android 11 and above starting in November, we should see a noticeable improvement in Android security going forward.


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