Google is implementing a new Play Store policy to combat abuse and potential leakage of sensitive call and text logs by third-party developers.
Currently on Android, apps can access your phone calls and text messages by simply asking you for permission. Hundreds of apps do this, regardless of the legitimate need to do so. Most will even continue to work just fine without that permission, but some users, when confronted with a permissions prompt will unquestioningly say yes.
This is obviously not a good state of affairs, and Google knows it. Third-party developers should not have unnecessary access to our call and text logs. To combat this, the company has updated the Play Store Developer Policy to prevent the majority of improper uses for the Phone and Text permissions.
Starting today, Play Store apps that wish to use Phone or Text permissions must first be the default Phone, SMS, or Assistant app. The exact permissions you are allowed vary based on the type of default used. Phone apps (like Google Voice) exclusively get phone call related permissions, SMS apps (like Textra) exclusively get SMS related permissions, and Assistant apps (like Alexa) get both.
There are quite a few legitimate situations for these permissions that aren’t covered by these three defaults, however. For these cases, Google is willing to work with and create exceptions for developers whose apps require Phone or SMS permissions for “core app functionality.” Some examples given include caller ID, and call/SMS backup & restore apps.
The full rundown of which permissions are included for each type of default, what exceptions Google is willing to abide, and how to get your application’s permissions approved for the Play Store can be found on a comprehensive new Play Console Help page. While the change went in effect today, enforcement of it doesn’t start for another 90 days, or January 6th.
It’s important to remember that this change will only affect apps in the Play Store, and does not affect other app stores (like Amazon Appstore) or Android as a whole. Developers are free to disregard this Play Store policy, so long as they intend to distribute elsewhere, like Fortnite.