Google takes Android developers at their word on data usage


An upcoming change to Google Play will make it harder for Android users to know what kinds of data apps will attempt to access once they’ve been installed.

Ars Technica Reports(Opens in a new window) Google will require Android developers to provide more information about how their apps collect, use and manage user data starting July 20. This developer-provided information will appear in a “Data Security” section of the app’s page on Google Play.

google says(Opens in a new window) the Data Security section “helps users make more informed choices when deciding which apps to install.” But earlier this week, Esper Senior Technical Writer Mishaal Rahman pointed out that Data Safety will replace the existing Permissions section on Google Play:

Google Play has automatically generated the Permissions section based on information gathered from the app itself. The new section on data security, on the other hand, consists entirely of the developer’s characterization of the privacy implications associated with using their app.

Google explains:

You are solely responsible for making complete and accurate statements in your app’s Play Store listing on Google Play. Google Play reviews apps against all policy requirements; however, we cannot determine on behalf of the developers how they handle user data. Only you have all the information necessary to complete the data security form. When Google becomes aware of a discrepancy between your app’s behavior and your statement, we may take appropriate action, including enforcement action.

The company is effectively asking Google Play to trade objective information about the types of data a given app might be trying to access (permissions) for subjective summaries of the app’s data usage (data security) instead than just making both sections available to Android users.

The apps in question would still have to request access to certain data – that’s the whole point of the permissions system – but Android users would not be notified of such requests beforehand. Then it is up to them to determine if a request matches the information in the Data Security section.

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Rahman Noted(Opens in a new window) that power Android users can always check the Permissions section through third-party apps or by checking the app manifest(Opens in a new window). As with everyone else, well, it looks like they’ll have to install the app to know for sure what kind of data it’s going to attempt to access.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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