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Google will soon start telling Android users which apps are collecting private data

Google has recently updated its unwanted software policy and it is something all Android users should be happy about

December 05, 2017 / 01:19 PM IST

Google has made another move in favour of privacy of its users, a few weeks after it was caught red-handed for using people’s data.

Previously, Google was caught collecting user’s location data even at a time when location services were disabled and many privacy experts questioned the behaviour of the tech giant.

But now there is good news in store for Android users.

Google Play has announced its latest update on Unwanted Software Policy in its attempt to tame the expansive and uncontrolled world of Android apps.

Timed to kick off in 60 days, here is a quick five-point breakdown of Google’s updated policy:

  1. Transparent Installation and Upfront Disclosure

The software installation process should be straightforward, easy-to-understand, and based on clear choices 

This is something that need not have been mentioned separately by Google but it has no choice but to state it again. Basically, it means apps need to do what the apps say they will do, and nothing more than that. Any changes to the phone’s settings or functions need to be clearly described to the user, and the user must agree to these changes before the installation is complete.

  1. Simple Removal

It should be easy for users to disable or uninstall the software.

Quite simply, it should be easy for a user to remove an app and in this case, no app can threaten or warn the user about uninstalling the app. Although this is usually never seen, some apps like Facebook do tend to show a lot of popups before uninstalling.

  1. Clear behavior

Once installed, software should behave as expected and deliver a clear value proposition to the user.

Apps should not be doing something which the user does not know about or does not want to be done. No false or misleading information should be shown and this includes no messing with other applications, no updates without letting the user know.

  1. Snooping

Software that collects or transmits a user’s personal information must be transparent about doing so 

This will probably be the most important part for users. Most of the time, there is not enough data to make an informed decision and Google wants to change this with the Unwanted Software Policy, where it demands that all apps be transparent about what information they are keeping.

Starting in 60 days, Google’s Safe Browsing Tool will be informing users that an app may be collecting their personal data without their permission. Developers of apps that handle personal data including email addresses, phone numbers among other things will need to put a warning informing users as well, says a post in Google Security Blog. And that’s not the end of it: apps need to specify for what the data is being used.

  1. Keeping up the Good Company

If any program includes any third-party software, the author is responsible for obtaining proper bundling authorization from the third party.

This has more to do with app developers making nice with other app developers. Building a third party software requires proper bundling authorisation.

The updated regulations will apply to all Android applications that are available via Google’s Play Store as well as those downloaded to Android devices from outside the mobile app store.

Google has always been firm in its stand about unwanted software: going to the extent of even labelling them as riskier than custom-built malware, as per a report in Eweek. Back in May, it had announced a new feature called Google Play Protect that will keep scanning apps on an Android device for unwanted behaviour.

Perhaps now many developers will be seen scrambling to ensure that they comply with these rules, and probably many apps will be disappearing from the Play Store as well.

But whether apps like Facebook will lay open its policies and actually tell users about what is being snooped remains to be seen.

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first published: Dec 5, 2017 01:19 pm