Google is removing apps from the Play Store that request access to users’ call and SMS data.
As part of an initiative to protect Android owners’ data, only your chosen default apps for phone calls and texts will be able to access their respective logs.
If developers still want access to this information, then they have to fill out a permissions declaration form and send it into Google, who will assess the pros and cons of letting the app have them.
Google says it will be looking at factors like: benefits to the user, if a user would clearly understand why the app needs the permissions, as well as if the app could perform its function without call/text permissions, or with different ones instead, when making its decision.
If the app in question passes its checks, then it can go up on the Play storefront. If it doesn’t, then the devs will have to rework the app.
In the blog post announcing that this change was coming into force, Paul Bankhead, director of product management for Google Play, wrote: “Our new policy is designed to ensure that apps asking for these permissions need full and ongoing access to the sensitive data in order to accomplish the app's primary use case, and that users will understand why this data would be required for the app to function.”
This block on apps looking to read calls and texts was originally announced in October 2018. Google gave developers 90 days between then and this latest announcement to get ahead in applying for permission or patching their app, otherwise any apps in breach would automatically get taken down.
App makers affected by this will need to submit a new patched version, or submit the same app again with a permission form, essentially making an appeal for Google to reassess its decision.
Chances are that most of the apps you might be using for calls and texts have already been through this process and passed Google’s checks. But if you are browsing through your numerous Android apps over the next few days and notice some mysterious gaps, then you’ll know a likely reason for the disappearance.
The apps should be back again soon enough, but with a smaller appetite for your personal data.