Google now solely relying on developers to provide accurate app data collection information

Sharanya Sinha
Sharanya Sinha July 17, 2022
Updated 2022/08/05 at 9:58 AM

Earlier this year, the Google Play Store introduced a new data privacy section that forces developers to disclose the information their apps collect. But as Esper editor-in-chief Mishal Rahman pointed out (via Ars Technica), Google will no longer display the approved list of permissions it automatically receives from each app, allowing developers to choose (or not choose) to show users. When Google first introduced its new data privacy feature last year, the company explained that its system relies on information provided by developers. Google’s support page says developers have until July 20 to fill out a data privacy form for their apps, which requires developers to “specifically” provide “complete and accurate information” about their apps.

APPLE APP STORE HAS A SIMILAR POLICY IN PLACE FOR ITS PRIVACY “NUTRITION” LABELS“Google Play reviews apps across all policy requirements; however we cannot make determinations on behalf of the developers of how they handle user data,” Google explains. “Only you possess all the information required to complete the Data safety form.” Google says it will take “appropriate action” if it finds any discrepancies between developers’ reported information and the app itself.

It’s worth noting that the Apple App Store has a similar policy in place for its privacy “nutrition” labels, and also requires developers to submit “self-reported summaries” about their apps’ privacy practices. Just like Google’s doing now, Apple puts its trust in developers to provide truthful information about the data their apps collect, which a report from The Washington Post found is often “misleading or flat-out inaccurate.”While Google doesn’t indicate any plans to replace the automatically-generated app permissions with the data privacy section, it looks like Google quietly swapped it out. In a Twitter thread, Rahman shows screenshots comparing one app list with the old Permissions section and another with just Data Protection. I noticed the same thing when comparing the archived version of the Google Play Store TikTok list from 2021 to the current one. As Rahman notes, Google stores application permissions in the Play Store, but it is not visible from the interface.

He recommends downloading an open-source Play Store alternative called Aurora, which displays permissions before downloading an app. It makes more sense for Google to show both the app’s permissions and the data privacy section. That way, users can compare the two to make sure the permissions granted by the developer match Google’s findings. The Verge reached out to Google to see if the company plans to bring back the permissions app, but has not heard back.

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