Google is implementing major new Play Store rules for how Android's "SMS" and "Call Log" permissions are used. New Play Store rules will only allow certain types of apps to request phone call logs and SMS permissions, and any apps that don't fit into Google's predetermined use cases will be removed from the Play Store. The policy was first announced in October, and the policy kicks in and the ban hammer starts falling on non-compliant apps this week.
In that October blog post, Google laid out its vision for SMS and phone permissions for Google Play apps, saying, "Only an app that has been selected as a user's default app for making calls or text messages will be able to access call logs and SMS, respectively." That statement also comes with a host of exceptions, some of which were added after communicating with members of the developer community, but the end result is still that SMS and phone permissions will be heavily policed on the Play Store.
Google says the decision to police these permissions was made to protect user privacy. SMS and phone permissions can give an app access to a user's contacts and everyone they've ever called, in addition to allowing the app to contact premium phone numbers that can charge money directly to the user's cellular bill. Despite the power of these permissions, a surprising number of apps ask for SMS or phone access because they have other, more benign use cases. So to clean up the Play Store, Google's current plan seems to be to (1) build more limited, replacement APIs for these benign use cases that don't offer access to so much user data and (2) kick everyone off the Play Store who is still using the wide-ranging SMS and phone permissions for these more limited use cases.
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