Google wants you to know how apps are using your data

The recent launch of iOS 14.5 has brought the topic of data into the public conversation again. This time the conversation centres around how much of our data is being collected and how we can control that flow.

Now Google is looking to make its Play Store a bit more transparent when it comes to telling users what data apps collect about them. As such, Google is pre-announcing an upcoming safety section in Google Play.

Google wants you to know at a glance whether an app:

  • Has security features like data encryption
  • Follows the Google Families Policy
  • Gives a user a choice regarding what data it needs
  • The app’s safety section is verified by an independent third-party
  • Allows data deletion requests upon the app being uninstalled

All of these elements will be highlighted in Google Play and should give you a better idea not only about how your data is used, but also how it’s protected.

In addition to that, developers will be asked to share:

  • What type of data is collected and stored
  • How the data is used

This, at least to our mind, seems like a section that could be abused by a developer through vague language. Google uses the example of “app functionality and personalisation” as a way for developers relay to how data is used but that says nothing. Is the app’s function to sell ads or give you a platform to chat to your friends because both of those can be true for Facebook, but one sounds better than the other.

Worse still, developers have to add this information to Google Play themselves.

“Similar to app details like screenshots and descriptions, developers are responsible for the information disclosed in their section. Google Play will introduce a policy that requires developers to provide accurate information. If we find that a developer has misrepresented the data they’ve provided and is in violation of the policy, we will require the developer to fix it. Apps that don’t become compliant will be subject to policy enforcement,” writes vice president of product and Android security and privacy, Suzanne Frey.

While this isn’t a monumental shift, Google is giving devs time to prepare for the change.

The policy will become available later this year at which point devs can begin declaring the relevant information in the Google Play Console.

End users will only start seeing these declarations in the first quarter of 2022 and the deadline for compliance will be Q2 2022.

“We’re committed to ensuring that developers have plenty of time to prepare. This summer, we’ll share the new policy requirements and resources, including detailed guidance on app privacy policies. Starting Q2 2022, new app submissions and app updates must include this information,” says Frey.

Whether this information will be useful to users is an unknown and it largely depends on how the information is presented.

If users are presented with a wall of jargon they don’t understand then this “solution” from Google is just additional text that users will ignore.

We’ll be tracking the formation of this policy and its implementation closely ahead of its availability to users next year.


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