Why Google Is Bringing App Permissions Back to the Play Store
The Google Play Store is home to thousands of apps, including malicious apps. Most users are unaware, hence they trust all Android apps simply because they’re hosted on Google’s Play Store.
To combat this, Google vets apps and provides key information, like the number of downloads, user reviews, the date of the last update, and app permissions, among others. It also sends malicious app alerts and removes offenders.
But, in a recent move, Google removed app permissions from the Play Store, replacing it with a Data Safety section. Now Google is backtracking on that and bringing back app permissions. Here’s why.
Google Introduces a Data Safety Section
In May 2021, Google hinted that it’ll roll out a Data Safety section in place of app permissions. In July 2022, Google made good on its promise by rolling out a Data Safety section to replace app permissions.
The Data Safety section of the app page shows you the types of data an app will collect and how it will be used. To get to it, go to Google Play Store, search for or select an app, scroll down, and click on the forward-facing arrow in front of Data Safety.
The arrow will not be visible if there’s no Data Safety entry available for the app. Google will also let you know if it is available.
Data Safety information may include your location, personal information, financial information, and app activity. It may also tell you how your data will be shared and whether it’ll be encrypted.
However, there was a pushback by users, who criticized the move and questioned the rationale for the replacement after Data Safety information for some major apps didn’t update.
For instance, Amazon and Discord still didn’t have a Data Safety entry at the time of writing. Facebook was in the same shoes a while ago, but it has now updated its information.
This happened because developers are required to supply Data Safety information and until they do, their information will be labeled unavailable. The deadline for submission was July 20, 2022.
This also raises the question of trust and transparency. Can developers be trusted to provide accurate information about their data collection and management practices?
Apple also relies on developers to supply app permissions information, including for its own first-party apps. Several third-party app developers have been caught lying about their app permissions in the App Store.
Google Reinstates App Permissions
Thankfully, Google has listened to user feedback and has promised to reinstate app permissions.
It will also take action against false declarations by developers in the Data Safety section. However, app permissions will not be replacing Data Safety. Instead, they’ll now live side-by-side.
This will provide even more context and information for Play Store users. Now you can compare the two and make better-informed decisions about whether to install an app or not, based on how it collects and uses data, and not rely solely on app developers.
App permissions are so important that you should remove them for apps you don’t use, change them on Windows 10, as well as on your iPhone and iPad.
A Win-Win for Users, Developers, and Google
With Data Safety and app permissions information available, users can make informed decisions plus hold developers and Google accountable for discrepancies.
Developers who provide accurate information can build trust with users improving the Play Store ecosystem for all stakeholders. Also, by reinstating app permissions, Google is showing that it values user feedback.
This is one step ahead of Apple’s App Store where developers are also relied on to provide accurate information about their app’s data collection and usage policies.