Google to Flag Apps That Snoop Without Permission

  • Google to Flag Apps That Snoop Without Permission

Google to Flag Apps That Snoop Without Permission

That'll involve more strictly enforcing the company's unwanted software policy, which already demands that app developers be transparent with users when collecting their personal information. This includes putting the complete text of the privacy policy in the app itself.

The company goes to say: "These data collection requirements apply to all functions of the app".

From February next year, Android apps that handle personal data such as phone numbers and email addresses, as well as device data, will be required to prompt users for permission to collect the information. The alerts will pop up on app store and webpages that lead to the offending apps. The rules stipulate that any form of data collection could trigger a Safe Browsing warning, including activity where the developer is using it to improve an app. Information uploaded as part of application logs or crash reports could result in a flag for the publisher if it contains user details that haven't been disclosed.

Developers have been given 60 days to comply with what is described as an expansion of Google's existing Unwanted Software Policy. Android users will now see Google Safe Browsing warnings on app and websites that collect the user's personal data without their consent.

Google notes that two common violations are when an app doesn't treat a user's installed apps as personal or sensitive user data and when an app doesn't treat the user's phone or contact book as personal data. Interestingly, it does not matter whether apps are featured in Google Play or they come via other marketplaces.

Websites owners that attract a Safe Browsing warning will need to follow the usual processes in the Search Console if they want to resolve the warnings. Developers have 60 days to implement the requested changes before Google puts the warning button on their apps.