Earlier this week, it was revealed that Google was planning to start hiding the app permissions section on each Play Store listing, replacing it with a new ‘Data Safety’ section similar to what you’ll see on the Apple App Store. This new Data Safety system would work by having each app developer making ‘complete and accurate declarations’ regarding what the app does, and what permissions it needs to do it.
As you can probably tell, putting so much trust into the hands of app developers with regards to information about system permissions doesn’t seem like a great idea, even if Google themselves believes in their community. In comparison, the old list of permissions you get when looking at an app’s listing on the Play Store was automatically generated by Google themselves. Every app would be scanned by Google and then a list of permissions used by said app would be listed out on the app’s listing.
After: pic.twitter.com/OxDH9Vs4RK— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) July 13, 2022
This has unsurprisingly led to some community backlash, as with the Data Safety section being given by the developer themselves, it could lead to some unscrupulous devs hiding or straight up misinforming the user on what exactly their app has access to on their smartphones and tablets. It does have some advantages though, as the permissions list could be confusing to users without much tech literacy—sometimes an app really does need to use your camera for certain functions for example, even if it’s not immediately clear why.
Nevertheless, it seems as though Google has listened to the community, and will be reinstating the permissions list on app listings. With that being said, they do seem to be keeping the Data Safety section too, arguing that it will provide the user with a simplified view of what data each app is collecting, sharing and securing.
The Data safety section provides users with a simplified view of how an app collects, shares, & secures user data, but we also want to make app permissions information easily viewable for users to understand an app’s ability to access specific restricted data & actions too.— Android Developers (@AndroidDev) July 21, 2022
At time of writing, the permissions list has yet to reappear on the Play Store, but Google did say it will be back shortly. At the very least, it is nice to see that Google are listening to community feedback, while also going forward with what they believe are best for the user.