Android Gains Safe Browsing Features To Out Apps Collecting Data Without Permission

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Google is introducing significant changes to how it enforces its Unwanted Software Policy, which should result in better privacy and transparency for the world's two billion Android users. This includes putting the complete text of the privacy policy in the app itself. If the requirements listed are not met, warnings may be shown on user devices through Google Play Protect or on webpages that lead to these apps.

"Additionally, if an app collects and transmits personal data unrelated to the functionality of the app then, prior to collection and transmission, the app must prominently highlight how the user data will be used and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use", the company added.

The company has updated its Unwanted Software Policy page and the guidance page on how app developers should handle user data. All that users will see is a warning, and one that doesn't quite stop them from using the app in the first place. Notably, these new guidelines will prevent apps from collecting user data which is not necessary. For instance, if an application requires sending analytics, it can't transmit information unrelated to the app unless it discloses the reason and gets permission from the user.

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According to the new policy, any apps handling users' personal information like email addresses or phone numbers, or device data will have to prompt users before doing so. The apps will be considered to violate Google's policy if they don't follow the rules for prominent disclosure.

New and existing applications will have 60 days to conform to these new rules, or developers risk their app displaying the new message asking for consent. This will help to crack down on malicious apps, including those from third-party sources that would previously go unnoticed by the Safe Browsing service.