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How to stay smart about Android app permissions

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When it comes to Android and privacy, we’re accustomed to seeing things move in a certain direction.

It’s simple, really: With each new Android version, it usually gets easier to manage your privacy and understand how your information is being used. And we typically get more front-facing tools and under-the-hood improvements that allow us to handle that stuff intelligently. Obviously, right?

Of course right. And that’s precisely why it’s so puzzling to see the latest change Google’s rolling out to the Android privacy picture — a change that feels like backwards progress and a real disservice to those of us who care about being fully aware of what we put on our phones.

In case you haven’t heard, Google just introduced an update to its Play Store interface that removes the long-standing option to see exactly which permissions an app requires before you install it. I noticed it the other day and thought I was losing my mind (which, to be fair, is always a distinct possibility) — but then code-sleuthing superstar and Esper Senior Technical Developer Mishaal Rahman confirmed that the change was, in fact, actually happening and not just a figment of my imagination.

The shift appears to be connected to the launch of the Play Store’s new Data Safety section, which Google introduced a while back but is making mandatory for all apps as of today. Which, I mean, okay — I get it. Most average Android-owning organisms probably don’t look at the more detailed and technical breakdown of app permissions all that often, and Google’s undoubtedly got oodles of data that influenced this decision.

But even so, removing the ability for all of us to see that sort of information and have an easily accessible objective overview of everything an app wants to do on our devices sure seems like a step in the wrong direction.

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