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Google removes app permissions info from Play Store pages: what it means for privacy

Google replaced mandatory information with an optional “data safety” form on its Play Store for apps. What does this mean for user privacy?

What is happening? Google removed the ability to view permission information for Android applications on its Play Store listings earlier in June 2022. Instead, this field has been replaced by a "data safety" form which is optional for developers to fill up and is consequently, mostly left blank. Previously, a user could view what features of a user's smartphone that an app would be using before downloading and installing the app. What is permission information? Every application on any smartphone needs to use certain features afforded to the phone, such as internet connectivity, camera, geo location, access to the hard drive, etc. For example, a payments app like Phonepe or PayTM would need access to contacts (for easier UPI transfers), camera (for QR code scanning), and among others. On the other hand a social media platform such as Instagram or Facebook would require access to the hard drive (for uploading photos), camera (to take pictures), geo location (for marking location in a post), etc. Until earlier in 2022, both Google and Apple — the world's two primary smartphone operating system manufacturers — used to mandate that the apps listed on their stores inform users as to what features the app would be accessing before downloading. Why this matters? Mandatory permission information allows users to see exactly what they would be signing up for if they were to download an app. This allowed potential users to then decide whether the access to sensitive information such as location or address book was worth the…

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