Google Backtracks on Android App Permissions After Outcry

Ever since app permissions were introduced in Android, the Google Play Store has listed all requested permissions on the listings for every app. Google started to hide the permissions section, but now the company is backtracking.

Google confirmed this week on Twitter that it had removed the app permissions section on Google Play Store app listing pages, but the company “heard your feedback” and has started to bring back the section.

Back in the early days of Android phones and tablets, the Play Store prominently displayed the full list of permissions an app would request — including access to networking, your contacts, calls, Bluetooth, etc.). The main reason for that was because all permissions had to be granted before the app could be installed.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow in 2015 introduced runtime permissions, which required apps to ask for each permission after they were installed (and allow them to be rejected), instead of your phone or tablet granting all of them automatically. That made the information on the Play Store listings less important — you were still warned if an app wanted Bluetooth access (or something else), but only when the app asks for it instead of before installation. Google requires any new apps or updates to existing apps to support runtime permissions, using the target API level requirement.

Related: How to See an iPhone App’s Privacy Details Before Installing It

More recently, Google introduced a Data Safety section on Play Store listings, which are similar to App Privacy labels on the Apple App Store. The new Data Safety section is easier to understand than Android’s broad permissions, but the information is provided by the app developer, instead of automatically generated from the app’s code like the permissions list.

Data safety screenshot showing information about location access and personal info
Data Safety information for Twitter on the Play Store

Google admits in its documentation that the company “cannot make determinations on behalf of the developers of how they handle user data” — it’s up to apps to make sure their Data Safety section is accurate. It’s not a perfect system, but neither is the permissions information.

Even though the permissions data on the Play Store isn’t too useful anymore, it doesn’t hurt to keep it around.

Via: The Verge

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