Google added privacy nutrition labels to apps on the Play Store last April, bringing more transparency to its Android marketplace in response to Apple’s introduction of similar strict rules. These tags allow developers to disclose and explain the variety of data their apps collect from users, giving consumers a better understanding of what they are signing up for. But a new study from Mozilla claims that the Play Store’s top apps’ disclosure labels don’t quite match up with all the user data they collect.
Popular apps such as TikTok and Twitter share user data with advertisers, internet service providers and platforms, despite claiming not to do so in their data tags, Mozilla’s latest report said Thursday. in his ongoing “Privacy Not Included” series.
The developers declare these nutrition labels by filling out a Google data security form. But companies are finding loopholes in self-disclosures, leading to misinformation about data labels, according to Mozilla’s report.
The organization said Google exempts app makers from reporting any data sharing with “service providers,” which has a narrow definition in the search giant’s terms. Additionally, Firefox’s parent company accused Google of placing the onus on developers to make accurate claims. Google said at launch that it reviews these labels by “using systems and processes that are continually improving.”
Mozilla studied the top 20 free apps and the top 20 paid apps for this report. It gave ratings ranging from “poor”, “needs improvement” to “OK”.
16 out of 40 apps, including Twitter, Minecraft and Facebook, received a “poor” rating in the report. 15 apps, including TikTok, YouTube, Google Maps and Gmail, received the “needs improvement” stamp. Some apps, including UC Browser, League of Stickman Acti, and Terraria, didn’t even complete Google’s data security form. Google said developers aren’t allowed to update their apps if they haven’t filled out the form.
“Consumers care about privacy and want to make smart decisions when downloading apps. Google’s data security labels are supposed to help them do that. Unfortunately, they don’t. Instead, I fear they do more harm than good,” Jen Caltrider, project manager at Mozilla, said in a statement.
“When I see data security labels that say apps like Twitter or TikTok don’t share data with third parties, it angers me because that’s completely wrong. Of course, Twitter and TikTok share data with third parties. third parties. Consumers deserve better. Google must do better.
The problem is not limited to the Google Play Store. Several reports have revealed that the developers are also giving false information about data sharing on the Apple App Store. These reports are the latest headache for Apple and Google, whose app store policies are under increasing scrutiny.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration accused Google and Apple of a monopoly on app stores and said they “are not on a level playing field, which is detrimental to developers and consumers. “. The report prepared by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) states that these app stores create “unnecessary barriers and costs for app developers” that stifle their growth.
Caltirider said Apple and Google should adopt a standardized data privacy system across platforms to notify customers with correct information. Mozilla also stressed that these tech giants should take action against apps that fail to provide accurate data sharing details.
Google pushed back against Mozilla’s findings, saying its ratings were random and not useful for measuring app security.
“This report confuses company-wide privacy policies that are intended to cover a variety of products and services with individual data security labels, which inform users of the data collected by a specific application. The notes Arbitrary ratings assigned by the Mozilla Foundation to apps are not a useful measure of label security or accuracy given the flawed methodology and lack of supporting information,” a Google spokesperson said.
The company also said security tags are relatively new offerings and provide better transparency than before. However, if the developers put false information, these labels could do more harm.
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