Google Play Store is home to the largest selection of Android apps available online. It is used by the majority of Android users all over the globe as the preferred source for apps.
Some apps in the Play Store are not very privacy-friendly. Your data could be used for malicious purposes, shared secretly with third parties or harvested.
Google has not always been able to enforce user-friendly privacy policies. The company now has new privacy policies for Play Store applications, but will they work?
New Data Safety Section for Play Store
In April 2022, a Google Blog described a new privacy option coming to the Play Store. It is a section called “Data safety” for apps, where developers must declare whether they are collecting data about users and for what purpose. It is very similar to Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Label. Google plans to make Google’s Play Store version more informative.
Apple’s data safety labels are for information only. Google asks Android developers to tell the reason they’re using that data. Google would like developers to disclose to users the purpose and sharing of their location data if they get it from an app.
Android developers will now have a place on their app pages to declare the following:
- How an app collects data.
- This describes the security system used to protect users’ personal data. It also explains whether users have the right to request that their data be deleted.
- It is not clear whether an app developer would share data with third parties.
- It is important to determine if a developer’s security practices comply with international standards.
- How certain qualified apps comply with Google Play’s Families policy to protect minors using the Play Store.
While the Play Store has been deemed safe, this new section addresses privacy concerns and aims to increase transparency in the Play Store. While some apps already display the new safety label, many apps are not yet.
Google states that Android developers have until July 20, 2022 to comply with the new rules. You can expect that most apps will start to display the label within the next few weeks.
Is the new feature going to make Play Store Apps more trustworthy?
Google takes a lot of heat because of the poor privacy practices of Play Store apps. It’s not uncommon to hear of Play Store apps that harvest user data in a malicious way. Google is not exempted from the blame. App developers often take the brunt.
While the company has established and enforced a variety of user-friendly privacy guidelines for Play Store apps throughout the years, privacy and data security problems still linger. It is one of the main reasons that certain apps are removed from the Play Store. The question is, will the latest addition fix the problem?
Google’s Play Store is a cosmetic feature. Practically, it won’t solve the problem. It’s almost like asking developers to declare their desire to steal your data. Google hasn’t added any new mechanisms to ensure that data collected is used only for the purposes it claims on its labels.
Google does not provide a guarantee that data collected is only what it has declared. App developers could claim that location data is used to improve their services when it is actually used to better target ads to you. A developer of an app could claim that it collects only certain types of data but secretly collects others.
Apple, despite its reputation for strict data safety, has been trying to figure out ways to ensure iOS app developers only gather data that they declare on the app’s privacy page. Despite declaring that they do not collect or transfer user data, certain iOS apps continue to secretly store and transfer it. Google has a similar problem in the Play Store.
Google does not yet have any better ways to make sure developers do not collect data other than what they explicitly declare. Android users will rejoice if Google does. Play Store users will have the opportunity to listen to app developers if it does not.
Play Store’s Data Safety Section has Some Potential
Play Store users will know what apps are before installing them, no matter if Google comes up with new ways to enforce truthfulness. People who wish to install an app can have the option of opting out if the app developer says it collects and shares their personal data. They will have the option to decide before installing the app whether or not they are OK with these practices.