The Google Play Store introduced a new data privacy section earlier this year that depends on developers to reveal the data their apps gather. But as Esper senior editor Mishaal Rahman noted (via Ars Technica), this may suggest that Google would no longer show a verified list of permissions it automatically obtains from each app, allowing developers complete flexibility over what they choose (or don’t want) to divulge to consumers.
Google made it clear that its approach will depend on data supplied by developers when it originally revealed the new data privacy section last year. Google notes that developers “alone” are required to provide “full and accurate statements” for their apps on a support page, and that they have until July 20 to do so.
According to Google, “Google Play checks apps against all policy standards; nonetheless, we cannot decide on the developers’ behalf how they manage user data.” “Only you have the data needed to fill out the Data safety form.” If Google discovers any differences between developers’ supplied information and the app itself, it promises to take “necessary action.”
It’s important to note that the Apple App Store has a similar regulation for its privacy “nutrition” labels and necessitates submission of “self-reported summaries” by developers about the privacy policies of their products. Apple, like Google, relies on app developers to be transparent about the information their applications gather, which The Washington Post discovered is frequently “misleading or flat-out false.”
Although Google doesn’t explicitly state that the data privacy section would replace the automatically produced app permissions, it appears like Google switched it out covertly. Rahman compares screenshots of two app listings—one with the old “Permissions” section and one with merely “Data safety”—in a post on Twitter. I discovered the same thing when I contrasted a 2021 archived TikTok Google Play Store listing with the current version.
As Rahman notes, Google is storing app permissions in the Play store; they are only hidden from the user’s perspective. He advises installing Aurora, an open-source Play Store substitute that still shows permissions prior to downloading an app.
However, it would make far more sense if Google showed both the data privacy area and the app permissions. Users might then compare the two in order to verify that the developer-reported permissions agree with Google’s results. The Verge contacted Google to inquire whether if the firm intended to bring back the app permissions area, but received no response right away.