Google Is Clamping Down On App Data Collection

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Developers have been given 60 days to comply with what is described as an expansion of Google's existing Unwanted Software Policy.

The revised rules also state that if an app collects and transmits personal data that is unrelated to its functions, then it must highlight this fact before transmission and seek consent from the user first. 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.

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The app is a part of Google's Next Billion Users initiative that prioritizes on bolstering Google products in markets where data connections are limited. If the requirements listed are not met, warnings may be shown on user devices through Google Play Protect or on webpages that lead to these apps. Developers should refer to the Unwanted Software Help Center.

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Once the user has installed the app on their Android device, the app will need to prompt a privacy policy that explicitly mentions what kind of data it procures from the user. The app is available in the Play Store for phones running Android 5.0 and above. Whenever that app uses data, the Data Saver bubble will show the current rate of data usage, and users can easily choose to block that app's data use if things start to get out of control. It also can't be placed in a privacy policy or terms of service and must not be bundled with non-privacy disclosures. This way, users can be protected even when they browse to websites that provide app installation.

It should be noted that Google is not outright banning apps that don't ask for permission.

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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. If a developer includes surreptitious data harvesting in an Android app, Safe Browsing will be able to detect it and warn the user.

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