Google announces new measures to crack down on spying apps

In an attempt to further protect its customers after numerous security incidents, Google is taking steps to improve user privacy from the spying apps they download. The measure is a part of Google’s Unwanted Software Policy for Android devices, which was most recently updated in the month of August. The idea with this particular measure is to make it more clear to users which applications, especially third-party apps, have access to personal data of its users.

The way that Google intends to do this is through a new notification system that makes users aware of just what they will be allowing the app to see. You may be thinking that there isn’t much difference between this and the permissions warning you receive before downloading an app, but Google seems to be taking it a step further.

In a post written by Paul Stanton of the Google Safe Browsing Team, the measure is described in detail:

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. 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.”

This definitely is another step in the right direction, and it is encouraging to see Google being more proactive in trying to protect Play Store users from spying apps. At the same time, it seems that this still leaves a lot of gray areas in terms of protecting users. Google is still putting much of the protection of data on the user. Obviously, active warnings are important, but the root of the issue is still not being dealt with. Much of Google’s Play Store woes have come from applications that inject malicious code post-download, so until this problem is dealt with head-on, I can’t see how Play Store is going to truly protect its consumers.

Photo credit: Flickr /Carlos Luna

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