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Google will restrict Android apps looking at sensitive data on your phone — here's how

Smartphone Apps
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Android and iOS apps have the ability to check out and pick data from other apps on your smartphone, which isn't ideal with the number of malicious apps constantly being found (this fake Bitcoin app duped a user into forking over $600,000). 

But now, Google is looking to bring a stop to this by restricting certain Android apps from being able to see all other apps installed on your phone — thanks to a new policy update that blocks “broad app visibility” in Android 11 or later.

The recent developer announcement (via Gizmodo) addresses Google's policy on privacy and security, detailing how apps that have the potential to obtain "scope-appropriate" visibility to other installed apps on the device. Not all apps need broad app visibility unless they cannot function without it.

"The inventory of installed apps queried from a device are regarded as personal and sensitive user data subject to the Personal and Sensitive Information policy," Google states to developers. "You may not use QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES if your app can operate with a more targeted scoped package visibility declaration (e.g. querying and interacting with specific packages instead of requesting broad visibility)."

Translation: broad app visibility is restricted to a select few apps, which may include everything from file managers to browsers. Google has made it clear that it's continuing to work on its security and privacy. This step will hopefully make it difficult for malicious apps from stealing private data.

Developers will need to comply with these changes and update their apps by May 5. If not, these apps could be removed from the Google Play Store. Better hop to it.

If you're keen on keep private, some of the best VPN services today can specifically help keep certain apps protected.