What Is Google Play Protect, and How to Use It

The best kind of smartphone security is the kind that doesn’t require you to do anything. Google Play Protect scans every app you get from the Play Store, and you’ve probably already installed it. If you haven’t, installing it is trivially simple — and using it requires no user input whatsoever, although it couldn’t hurt to check that it’s active.

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

Google Play Protect is the latest initiative from Google to safeguard Android users against malicious apps. While the Google Play Store has a fairly rigorous screening process, rogue apps do occasionally slip through the cracks. Google Play Protect will continue to scan apps on your phone after they’ve been installed, and warn you if there are any security concerns about them. The software will also verify updates and new installations.

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That’s pretty much all you need to know about the functionality of Google Play Protect; once it’s on, it works on its own. You should, however, make sure that you have it installed, and that it’s activated. Installing it is simple: Just make sure that all of your Google-related apps, including Google Play itself, are up-to-date in the Play Store.

Making sure that Google Play Protect is active requires a few more steps. Access your phone’s settings, then go to Google, then to Security and finally to Google Play Protect. (The feature may also be called Verify Apps.) You can enable or disable the service on that page.

Depending on your phone, Google Play Protect may or may not have activated itself automatically, so just make sure it’s toggled on. (The scanning feature may be labeled as "Scan device for security threats" on your device. If you choose not to use it, you’ll be rolling the dice with just about any app beyond the Google suite.

You can also choose whether or not to share your data with Google. By default, the feature, labeled as "Improve harmful app detection" on some phones, is disabled. If you choose to enable it, you can console yourself with the knowledge that even if you didn’t activate it, Google is tracking you in plenty of other ways.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.