Google to issue warnings when apps steal your personal data

Google to issue warnings when apps steal your personal data

Brands should take note - Google has told Android app developers and webmasters they have 60 days to give users of their products better warnings about how their products track behavior and collect data or risk being flagged in Google Play Project or on webpages that lead to their apps. Further, if the apps save information that is not necessary they are needed to explain users how the data is going to be used.

All requests for access to data for instance will need to make sense to users and be limited only to the data required for existing application functionality.

Google says these new rules also apply to basic operations such as user data collection for analytics and crash reporting purposes, and not necessarily for personal data alone.

More importantly, this policy will extend to apps that have not been downloaded from the Google Play Store. 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.

Recent research by Yale University's Privacy Lab and Exodus Privacy showed that three quarters of Android apps contain trackers that collect user data for targeted advertising, to glean their locations, and to analyse behaviour.

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The changes reflect an update in August to the Personal and Sensitive Information section of Google's Developer Policy Center.

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.

It must also be displayed within the normal usage of the app and not be buried in settings. Notably, these new guidelines will prevent apps from collecting user data which is not necessary.

Safe Browsing warnings will appear "on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user's personal data without their consent". In case app developers fail to comply, Google will take it upon itself to warn users.

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