Google’s New Safety Section Shows What Data Android Apps Collect About Users

Google on Tuesday officially began rolling out a new “Data safety” section for Android apps on the Play Store to highlight the type of data being collected and shared with third-parties.

“Users want to know for what purpose their data is being collected and whether the developer is sharing user data with third parties,” Suzanne Frey, Vice President of product for Android security and privacy, said. “In addition, users want to understand how app developers are securing user data after an app is downloaded.”

The transparency measure, which is built along the lines of Apple’s “Privacy Nutrition Labels,” was first announced by Google nearly a year ago, in May 2021.

The Data safety section, which will show up against every app listing on the digital storefront, presents a unified view of what data is being collected, for what purpose it’s being used, and how it’s handled, while also highlighting what data is being shared with third-parties.

On top of that, the labels can also show an “app’s security practices, like encryption of data in transit and whether users can ask for data to be deleted,” Frey noted, in addition to validating those practices against security standards such as the Mobile Application Security Verification Standard (MASVS).

Google Data Safety Section

The feature is expected to be gradually made available to all users, while giving app developers a deadline of July 20, 2022 to complete the section and keep them updated should they change the apps’ functionality or data handling methods.

That said, Data safety is expected to face similar concerns to that of Apple’s in that the system is built entirely on an honor system, which requires app developers to be truthful and clear-cut about what they do with the data, and not list inaccurate labels.

Apple has since said that it would routinely audit labels for accuracy, thereby ensuring that the labels are reliable and don’t give users a false sense of security about the data being collected and shared.

Google, last year, had said that it intends to institute a mechanism in place that requires developers to furnish accurate information, and that it will mandate them to fix misrepresentations should it identify instances of policy violations.

While the search giant has explicitly stated that its app review process is not designed to certify the accuracy and completeness of the data safety declarations provided by third-party app developers, it’s outlining strong measures to handle such transgressions.

The company is warning that it will be taking suitable enforcement measures when it identifies a deviation from the information provided in the section. Failing to ensure compliance can result in blocked updates or removal from Google Play.

“When Google becomes aware of a discrepancy between your app behavior and your declaration, we may take appropriate action, including enforcement action,” the company¬†said¬†in an updated support article.

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