Google Is Clamping Down On App Data Collection

Any apps that fail to display a custom privacy policy will find that their Play Store listing is slapped with a warning. If a developer includes surreptitious data harvesting in an Android app, Safe Browsing will be able to detect it and warn the user.

Google will now require apps to show a privacy policy on the device when the software is handling personal data such as phone number or email address.

Installing apps from external sources can lead you to an infection because apps aren't necessarily validated by store approval teams.

This amounts to "clandestine surveillance software that is unknown to Android users at the time of app installation", Yale's Privacy Labs wrote in its report.

Developers will also need to offer a way for users to give their "affirmative consent" if an app collects and transmits personal data that's unrelated to the functionality of the app. App developers caught by the new Safe Browsing warnings can request an app review on the App Verifications and Appeals support page.

Safe Browsing warnings will appear "on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user's personal data without their consent". Notably, these new guidelines will prevent apps from collecting user data which is not necessary. This will apply at all times; for instance, the list of installed apps on your device can not be sent from your device during a crash report without consent. But this might soon be put to an end thanks to Google's new app policy.

Users will be warned through Google's safe browsing feature about apps that collect personal data without consent.

Popular apps such as Uber, Spotify, and Tinder use Google's Crashlytics crash reporting feature to access insights into people's behaviour. Or they can simply ignore the change and hope that most users will continue to ignore Android's numerous warnings.

  • Joey Payne