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Google dropping Android apps who have no business reading SMS, call logs

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Google dropping Android apps who have no business reading SMS, call logs

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As open as the Android platform may be, it is also criticized for being just as open to abuse. Google has been trying to plug up holes that it may have left open in the past, though sometimes it accidentally also shuts the door on well-meaning developers’ faces. One recent example of that is its new policy on SMS and Call Log permissions which almost spelled trouble for Tasker. While the popular automation framework managed to dodge that bullet, Google is now reminding other developers that the hammer will be falling soon.

The history of Android app permissions is a messy one but hindsight is always 20/20. All Google can really do damage control and try to curtail the broader permissions it allowed apps to have before. Unfortunately, sometimes such changes are bound to break things and ruffle a few feathers.

That happened last November when Google announced that apps that currently have permissions for SMS and Call Logs but are not actually SMS apps or phone apps would be banned from Google Play Store. The idea was that those apps wouldn’t have any business being able to read what should be private data. In fact, those permissions have indeed been misused and abused to violate user privacy.

Unfortunately, that new policy also hit apps like Tasker that, while not necessarily SMS or phone apps, allow users to automate the sending of messages or making calls. Accessibility apps also fell afoul of the policy so Google has given them some reprieve by letting them apply for an exception subject to review.

That period for applying exceptions is now over and offending apps will soon be removed from the Google Play Store. Google isn’t closing the door, however, and developers can either remove the unnecessary permissions from their apps or submit a permission declaration to be reviewed. Hopefully, this could lead to a significant reduction in wayward apps, at least until some new permission becomes the new security hole.

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