Google clamps down on apps harvesting unnecessary data

5 Dec 2017

Google Play Store. Image: Siarhei Dzmitryienka/Shutterstock

Google’s Safe Browsing team wants to stop apps from collecting information they don’t need.

Google has been introducing a number of new safety measures as of late to make using your devices a less treacherous experience.

Just last month, Google Chrome launched a number of new steps to combat people abusing the power of the internet to take advantage of users, including tackling redirects and pop-up blocker workarounds.

Google Play Developer also changed its monetisation rules, banning lock-screen ads from appearing on Android phones, eliminating a major irritant for many users.

Privacy policy takes centre stage

Now, the Safe Browsing team is switching its focus to how apps collect data from users.

Under the new rules, apps need to provide their privacy policy and prompt users to share their data, from phone numbers to a list of apps installed on their device. Android users will now get an explicit rundown of the data required of them to run an app prior to installation.

Paul Stanton of the Safe Browsing team wrote of the tighter regulations for apps collecting user data going forward: “Additionally, if an app collects and transmits personal data unrelated to the functionality of the app, then, prior to collection and transmission, the app must prominently highlight how the user data will be used, and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use.”

These requirements apply to all functions of the app, so, if an app wants to send crash reports or analytics, it will not be allowed to send the list of installed packages unrelated to it unless it informs the user of the need for this information and gets permission.

Warnings from Google

Apps downloaded outside of Google Play Store are also subject to the policy and, if apps don’t abide by the rules, Google Play Protect will show a warning whenever an attempt to collect your data is carried out without your prior consent.

Webmasters and developers have 60 days to enforce these changes before Google begins to warn users.

These new regulations will hopefully raise awareness of just how common it is for apps to collect a large quantity of data from users, even if not all of it is required for the app to run correctly.

Google Play Store. Image: Siarhei Dzmitryienka/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects