What Is Google Play Protect and How Does It Work?

Learn about the Android app security feature

concept of secure smartphone

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Google Play Protection is a built-in protection program that can keep unwanted or dangerous software (often called malware) off your device. Malware can wreak havoc on your Android smartphone or tablet, causing it to behave erratically and occasionally compromising your personal information.

By utilizing proprietary algorithms that are always learning and adapting to new threats, Google Play Protect is updated on a regular basis to effectively combat the latest malware. It automatically scans your phone or tablet in the background, checking for harmful apps or other behaviors that could leave you vulnerable.

How Does Google Play Protect Work?

When you download a new app from the Google Play Store, Protect will run an in-depth safety check on it. If a newly-downloaded app is deemed harmful in any way or if it violates Google’s Unwanted Software Policy, you’ll receive a notification informing you of the potential problem before the installation process has completed.

At this point you can choose to halt the download and remove any related files from your device, which is highly recommended. Google Play Protect also periodically scans your device for harmful apps that may have been previously installed, especially those that originated from sources other than the Google Play Store.

If an app is considered to be an immediate threat, Google Play Protect may opt to disable and/or remove it right away even without your explicit permission. In either scenario, you will receive a notification detailing the action that has been taken. 

In addition, any time an app has the ability to access your personal information, Play Protect will alert you to the fact that it is in violation of Google’s Developer Policy and recommend disabling or uninstalling it. 

Apps are occasionally removed from the Google Play Store whenever they’ve been found in violation of the aforementioned Developer Policy. If you have one of these apps installed on your device, Google Play Protect will inform you of this action and offer the option of removing the app from your device. We highly recommend doing so in these instances. If an app is unfit for the Google Play Store, it probably should not remain on your smartphone or tablet.

Google Play Protect also monitors network connections and URLs that you visit through a browser, warning you whenever a web page or other transmission isn’t safe. 

How to View Your Google Play Protect Status

Aside from sending notifications when necessary, Google Play Protect essentially does all of its work behind the scenes. You can take a look at which apps it’s recently scanned as well as its current status by following the instructions below.

  1. Tap the Play Store icon, located on your device’s home screen.

    screenshot of Android home screen
  2. Select the Menu button, represented by three horizontal lines and located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

    screenshot of Google Play Store on Android phone
  3. When the slide-out menu appears, tap Play Protect.

    screenshot of Google Play Store menu
  4. The Google Play Protect interface should now be displayed, as shown in the accompanying screenshot. Toward the top of the screen should be your current status, noting if any harmful apps were discovered. 

    screenshot of Google Play Protect status
  5. Directly below the status you’ll find a list of apps that have been recently scanned, along with the date and time that the most recent scan took place.

How to Disable Google Play Protect

Enabled by default, Google Play Protect can be turned off at any point by taking these steps.

We do not recommend disabling Google Play Protect unless you have an urgent reason for doing so. If you absolutely must disable Play Protect, you should consider reactivating this feature as soon as possible after the fact.

  1. Tap the Play Store icon, located on your device’s home screen.

  2. Select the Menu button, represented by three horizontal lines and located in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

  3. When the slide-out menu appears, tap Play Protect.

  4. Tap the Settings icon, represented by a gear and located in the upper right-hand corner.

    screenshot of Google Play Protect status
  5. The Play Protect settings should now be visible. Tap the on/off (green) button accompanying the Scan device for security threats option. 

    screenshot of Google Play Protect settings
  6. A warning message will appear, asking if you are sure you want to disable this protection. Tap OK to complete the process.

    screenshot of Google Play Protect disable warning
  7. To reactivate Google Play Protect at any time, simply repeat these steps.