Google Play has responded to one of Apple’s key privacy features, “nutrition labels,” which tell users at a glance what data apps are using, with its own similar version. Android apps will now have their own privacy labels, which include information about data sharing with third parties, encryption, suitability for children, and more.
The information displayed is very similar to that on Apple’s privacy labels, but it remains to be seen whether Google Play effectively enforces the inclusion of accurate information about Android apps, something Apple has struggled with so far.
Google Play’s Android apps add easy-to-read privacy information
The privacy labels are not yet available for Android apps, but will be rolled out in the coming weeks. July 20th is the last deadline for advertisers to disclose the required information.
The privacy statements are displayed when Android apps are downloaded and can also be found in the new security section of Google Play Data (which will gradually be rolled out as a Google Play update for users).
The plan was first introduced in 2021 and has since undergone some minor changes. The final version essentially attempts to improve on Apple’s privacy flags by adding more information about the developer’s data security policies, so users can not only see what data is being requested but also get a sense of how trustworthy each of their Android apps is. app is.
However, one key difference between the two platforms remains; While Apple requires developers to obtain user permission for targeted advertising and requires apps to continue providing full functionality even if the user declines, Google Play does not have similar requirements. While the new Android privacy labels require developers to disclose more information about personal data collected for advertising purposes and how exactly it is used, it does not prohibit them from restricting or denying app access when the end user does not wish to be tracked. Android developers are given about a paragraph of text on the privacy labels to argue to users why this collection of personal data is required for the app to function.
Android privacy label similar to Apple but with some tweaks
Google has confirmed that its privacy statements include the type of data collected and its purpose, whether the data is shared with third parties, available security practices (e.g. encryption of data in transit), user access and deletion options, whether the app uses a meets safety standards and whether the app follows the Google Play family policy (designed to protect children).
However, the exact content of the privacy flags is irrelevant unless Google Play enforces the inclusion of correct information. This is one area where the company has an opportunity to differentiate itself from Apple, which has struggled to ensure its privacy labels are actually telling users the truth about apps. When Apple privacy labels first became available in early 2021, a Washington Post review found that a sample of popular and frequently downloaded apps had worryingly high rates of inaccurate label information. Apple promised to step up the process of conducting random audits to improve enforcement.
There was no large-scale investigation or follow-up study on this as of April 2022, when Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab released an academic analysis that found compliance remained “moderate.” The study found that half of the sampled apps didn’t even have the required privacy label, and nine out of 12 apps had bad labels.
In terms of enforcement, the policies of the two platforms are the same: Android apps can be banned from updating or even removed from Google Play if they don’t provide accurate privacy label information, at least on paper, and all Android apps (including this one which do not collect user data) are required for this. Google has yet to specify what its enforcement plan will look like, only saying it has “systems and processes” in place that it “continuously works to improve.” Another factor in the success of this plan could be how prominent the labels are in the Android app browsing and downloading process, as studies have shown that consumers are often unaware of Apple’s privacy labels long after they’re introduced.