7

I obviously have Google Search installed on my stock Nexus 4, however, a recent update for this app appears to require no less than 11 new permissions. Google does not appear to give any explanation for these new requirements. So, what is the reason for these new permissions?

  • Device & app history
  • Identity
  • Contacts/Calendar
  • Location
  • SMS
  • Phone
  • Photos/Media/Files
  • Camera/Microphone
  • Wi-Fi connection information
  • Device ID & call information
  • Other

Whenever I get a new update for an app, I glance over any new permissions and if they don't offer any explanation for why they now require these new permissions, I simply don't update the app. That is, after all, the reason why we are alerted to any new permissions - isn't it? Unfortunately, this means I have not yet updated this app. Should I?

6

Most of these permissions are used by Google Now and the new features they will be bringing out after Google I/O and the upcoming Android L Release.

I'm not sure about why they need a lot of these permissions, but I will explain the ones that I know about. Feel free to edit the answer to improve it. I have listed all the sub permissions as listed in the play store.

Device & app history

  1. Retrieve running apps

    This is for an upcoming feature where google search results will point/link directly to apps installed on your phone.

  2. Read your Web bookmarks and history

    This is for making Google Now suggestions based on your web habits. For example, I get updates about Fifa World Cup scores because I have searched for them on my phone before.

Identity

  1. Find accounts on the device

    Should be related to the feature mentioned in "Retrieve running apps"

    It is also needed to log in with your Google account for the "commute sharing" feature, to access your web search history, and for app search, if you have any of these features turned on

  2. Add or remove accounts

  3. Read your own contact card

Contacts/Calendar

  1. Read your contacts

    Mainly for Google voice commands, such as calling a contact or sending them a message.

  2. Modify your contacts

  3. Read calendar events plus confidential information

    For reminding you about upcoming events.

  4. Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners' knowledge

Location

  1. Precise location (GPS and network-based)
  2. Approximate location (network-based)

    To provide location based suggestions, I get Google Now cards with places to eat nearby, weather reports, Photo spots nearby, etc

SMS

  1. Receive text messages (SMS)
  2. Send SMS messages

    To send messages via voice commands

  3. Edit your text messages (SMS or MMS)

  4. Read your text messages (SMS or MMS)

Phone

  1. Directly call phone numbers

    Make calls via voice commands

  2. Read call log

Photos/Media/Files

  1. Test access to protected storage
  2. Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

Camera/Microphone

  1. Take pictures and videos
  2. Record audio

Wi-Fi connection information

  1. View Wi-Fi connections

    Might be used for guessing when you're at home/work or maybe related to this

Device ID & call information

  1. Read phone status and identity

Other

  • Send Gmail
  • Permission to write Sound Search matches
  • Preload results
  • modify secure system settings
  • receive data from Internet
  • choose widgets
  • download files without notification
  • Read Google settings
  • disable or modify status bar
  • contacts data in Google accounts
  • view configured accounts
  • adjust your wallpaper size
  • prevent app switches
  • Modify Google settings
  • set an alarm
  • run at startup
  • control flashlight
  • view network connections
  • prevent device from sleeping
  • install shortcuts
  • use accounts on the device
  • change your audio settings
  • read Google service configuration
  • modify system settings
  • full network access
  • pair with Bluetooth devices
  • access Bluetooth settings
  • set wallpaper
  • send sticky broadcast
  • connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi
  • read sync settings
  • control vibration
  • 1
    "View Wi-Fi connections" isn't needed to get location info based on nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. This functionality is a part of Android itself, so apps just use the location permissions to get this information. However, it could use it as part of the "guessing when you're at home/work" functionality, but that's just speculation. – Dan Hulme Jul 3 '14 at 10:37
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    The accounts-related ones are because it needs to log in with your Google account for the "commute sharing" feature, to access your web search history, and for app search, if you have any of these features turned on. – Dan Hulme Jul 3 '14 at 10:38
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    Reading Gmail is so that if you book a flight with your Gmail address, it reads the flight details automatically so it can tell you when to check in and which gate to open, &c. – Dan Hulme Jul 3 '14 at 10:39
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    No, that's an Android feature, performed by the Fused Location Provider. It's not part of the Google Search app or any other user-visible app. – Dan Hulme Jul 3 '14 at 11:59
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    @w3d The functionality of Google Search and Google Experience Launcher (formerly known as Google Now Launcher) have been merged into the Google Search app now. GEL is basically just a shortcut to Search. – Chahk Jul 3 '14 at 14:16

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