Google will be introducing the same privacy labels that Apple brought to the iPhone and iPad this year.
Apple’s recent iOS 14 update rolled out “nutrition labels” that are aimed at giving users more information about what data an app collects.
Google will now inform users of the same thing: whether an app collects data on a user’s location, contacts, personal information, photo and videos, audio files, or storage files.
It will also describe how the data is used, giving more information about app functionality and personalisation, as well as whether the data is encrypted, whether users have a choice in sharing it, and whether the app’s safety section is verified by a third-party.
If Google finds that a developer has misrepresented the data, they will require the developer to fix it. It is unclear if Google is actively checking for this information, and has been criticised for lacklustre moderation of its app store in the past – as has Apple.
This makes a marked change to how users are currently informed of the permissions given to apps: digging through their Android device’s settings menu to find the data provided.
There is an option to see App Permissions in the Google Play Store app – by tapping “About this app”, scrolling to the bottom, and then hitting the green “See More” button under “App permissions” – but that is a lengthy process and it is unlikely many users have ever navigated to that section of the storefront.
Google might be following Apple’s footsteps in providing “nutrition labels”, but it has not gone as far as the Cupertino smartphone manufacturer.
Apple’s iOS 14.5 update brought with it App Tracking Transparency, which forces developers to ask permission to see the unique identifier that tracks usage between apps.
This identifier is used by companies to show people ads, and as such has put it in battle with advertising giants such as Facebook. Google also makes a huge amount of money from advertising, reportedly netting $29.95 billion in revenue in 2019.