Just over a month ago, we reported that the Google Play Store was enacting a new policy to help curb call and text data leaks. In the announcement, Google promised that some apps which didn’t meet the strict new criteria would be able to apply for an exemption to the policy. Popular Android automation app, Tasker, has been thoroughly denied such an exemption.
Under the policy, only apps that seek to be a device’s default phone, text, or assistant app can request permissions to call and SMS data. All apps that wish to remain in the Play Store have 90 days, ending on January 6th, to make the necessary changes or be removed from the Play Store.
App developers could also fill out a Google Form to ask for an exemption if call and/or SMS capabilities are core to the app’s functionality. A good example of this would be a caller ID app, which certainly needs call information, but probably shouldn’t be your default call dialing app.
Tasker developer, João Dias filed for such an exemption for Tasker, given that many of its users utilize the call and text actions. Now, a month later, Google has firmly denied his request, stating that Tasker does not qualify for any of the special exemptions offered. Dias shared his experience publicly, including the full response from The Google Play Team.
Another troubling aspect of this story is what seems to be a contradiction between the response and a recent developer Q&A session. In the rejection notice, The Google Play Team advises developers who opt to not update their app to simply unpublish it. However, from an answer in the Q&A session, it sounds like Google expects developers to still update their apps even if they unpublish, as the older version of the app may still be somewhat accessible when changing devices.
Between the rejection and this apparent miscommunication between teams, Dias has resigned himself to updating Tasker to completely remove all features that require Phone or Text permissions. He is also looking into ways to make these features available to Takser through a plugin available outside the Play Store.
While privacy, safety, and security are of the utmost importance, Google needs to remember that developers are the lifeblood of the Play Store. Updating policies and giving short deadlines (not to mention the 90 day window includes three major American holidays) is not a good way to keep developers happy and coming back to your storefront.