After Cracking Down on Apps Displaying Shady Ads, Google Will Now Start Shaming Snooping Apps


Google has announced its plans to crack down on apps that fail to notify users when they are collecting personal information. While the company's efforts to keep its Android app ecosystem clean and secure haven't always worked, it would be interesting to see how the new privacy requirements are going to be implemented. For now, the company is giving developers 60 days to follow its requirements and update their apps or risk getting publicly shamed by the Pixel maker.

Google's Safe Browsing now cracks down on "unwanted and harmful mobile behaviors on Android"

The company will now require apps that collect personal user data to carry their own privacy policy in their apps and prompt users every time they collect and transmit data that isn't related to the app's functionality. Google said that "the app must prominently highlight how the user data will be used and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use."

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If an app fails to do so, Google will show warnings on user devices via Google Play Protect or on webpages that lead to these apps.

"In our efforts to protect users and serve developers, the Google Safe Browsing team has expanded enforcement of Google's Unwanted Software Policy to further tamp down on unwanted and harmful mobile behaviors on Android," the company wrote. "As part of this expanded enforcement, Google Safe Browsing will show warnings on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user’s personal data without their consent."

These data collection requirements apply to all functions of the app. For example, during analytics and crash reportings, the list of installed packages unrelated to the app may not be transmitted from the device without prominent disclosure and affirmative consent.

"This kind of capability does have the potential to affect not only advertisers but also other companies that collect personal data from a tracking/monitoring perspective," Deepak Dutt, CEO of Zighra, said in an email to Wccftech. "Eventually, this will pave the way for more decentralized approaches where private data does not have to leave the device without user consent."

"These requirements apply to apps in Google Play and non-Play app markets."

This is similar to Google's latest efforts to crack down on apps that were showing advertisements out of their own space - for example, a gaming app showing ads on the lockscreen. The company seems to be on a mission to fight apps that introduce malicious and unwanted behaviors on Android devices. With these recent policies, an Android app won't be able to collect information it doesn't need for functionality without asking for user consent and it won't be able to show annoying lockscreen ads. The future of Android does seem pretty neat...