Google Safe Browsing Extends to Android Apps Requiring User and Device Data

Posted December 05, 2017

The app provider's privacy policy must also be displayed within the application. The amended policy introduced a requirement for an app to provide prominent disclosure if it collects and transmits personal user data unrelated to the app's main functionality described in the Play Store listing.

Google's Paul Stanton wrote, "Apps handling personal user data (such as user phone number or email), or device data will be required to prompt users and to provide their own privacy policy in the app".

The crackdown is a new effort to combat malicious and harmful Android apps and will apply to software distributed through the Play Store as well as third-party Android app markets. The rules stipulate that any form of data collection could trigger a Safe Browsing warning, including activity where the developer is using it to improve an app. Information uploaded as part of application logs or crash reports could result in a flag for the publisher if it contains user details that haven't been disclosed. The user must provide consent for all of these. So if you're a developer and your app collects personal data, you have a little under two months to get your apps to comply with these new rules. All that users will see is a warning, and one that doesn't quite stop them from using the app in the first place.

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The OS maker is giving app developers 60 days to fix their issues and update apps with notifications of their full practices. But this might soon be put to an end thanks to Google's new app policy.

The Safe Browsing warnings will appear "on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user's personal data without their consent", Google notes on its security blog. Interestingly, it does not matter whether apps are featured in Google Play or they come via other marketplaces. If this requirement isn't met, warnings may be shown on users' devices.