The Google Play Store hosts thousands of apps, including rogue apps. Most of the users do not know this, so they trust all Android apps just because they are hosted on Google Play Store.
To combat this, Google verifies apps and provides key information, such as number of downloads, user reviews, date of last update, and app permissions, among others. It also sends malicious app alerts and removes offenders.
But, in a recent move, Google removed app permissions from the Play Store, replacing it with a data security section. Now Google is backtracking and bringing app permissions back. Here’s why.
Google introduces a section on data security
In May 2021, Google hinted that it will deploy a data security section instead of app permissions. In July 2022, Google kept its promise by deploying a Data Security section to override app permissions.
The Data Security section of the app page shows you the types of data an app will collect and how it will be used. To access it, go to Google Play Store, search or select an app, scroll down and click the forward arrow in front Data Security.
The arrow will not be visible if no data security entry is available for the application. Google will also let you know if it’s available.
Data security information may include your location, personal information, financial information, and app activity. It can also tell you how your data will be shared and if it will be encrypted.
However, there was a pushback from users, who criticized the move and questioned the rationale for the replacement after data security information for some major apps was not updated.
For example, Amazon and Discord still lack a data security entry at the time of writing. Facebook was in the same situation a while ago, but has now updated its information.
This happened because developers are required to provide data security information and until they do, their information will be labeled as unavailable. The deadline for submission was July 20, 2022.
This also raises the issue of trust and transparency. Can developers be trusted to provide accurate information about their data collection and management practices?
Apple also relies on developers to provide information about app permissions, including for its own proprietary apps. Several third-party application developers have been caught lying about their app permissions in the App Store.
Google restores app permissions
Thankfully, Google listened to user feedback and promised to restore app permissions.
It will also take action against developer misrepresentations in the Data Security section. However, app permissions will not replace Data Safety. Instead, they will now live side by side.
This will provide even more context and information for Play Store users. Now you can compare the two and make more informed decisions about whether or not to install an app, based on how it collects and uses data, and not just rely on app developers.
App permissions are so important that you need to remove them for apps you don’t use, change them on Windows 10, as well as on your iPhone and iPad.
A win-win for users, developers and Google
With information about data security and app permissions available, users can make informed decisions and hold developers and Google accountable for deviations.
Developers who provide accurate information can build trust with users by improving the Play Store ecosystem for all stakeholders. Also, by restoring app permissions, Google shows that it values user feedback.
This is a step ahead of Apple’s App Store, where developers are also required to provide specific information about their app’s data collection and usage policies.