Security Architecture, Endpoint/Device Security, Endpoint/Device Security, Network Security, Endpoint/Device Security, Endpoint/Device Security, Endpoint/Device Security

Privacy violators beware: Google cracks down on apps skirting its User Data policy

App developers are on notice: If your app collects user data and does not have a valid privacy policy, it might be removed from Google Play, according to The Next Web.

The developers have been given until March 15 to resolve the issue, otherwise, the notice stated, the "visibility" of the app will be limited or it will be removed.

The notice is targeting so-called "zombie apps," the countless offerings on the Play Store lacking lucid privacy policies. Many of these products are half-baked, with many nothing more than clickbait to generate ad revenue or phony versions of more popular apps – with the protection of user data an unlikely concern. So, many app vendors applaud the move as clearing out junk from the online marketplace, which will increase visibility for their offerings.

Google requires app developers to clearly present data policies, not only displayed to users but also as part of its registration process where it must be input into a template field in the Play Developer Console. The company also requires that apps process user data using modern cryptography, including via HTTPS.

"Google Play requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user or device information," the notice reads. "Your app requests sensitive permissions (e.g. camera, microphone, accounts, contacts, or phone) or user data, but does not include a valid privacy policy."

If the app developers fail to offer a link on their Store Listing page to a valid privacy policy adhering to Google's rules, the notice states their app will be obscured from view on Google Play or deleted. A privacy policy must also appear within the app itself.

A spokesperson at Google told SC Media on Thursday that the update to Google's privacy policy (in the Google Play Developer Program Policies) was actually made last August and is consistent with industry practices. "Since then, we have been sending regular reminders to developers to comply with this change," the Google spokesperson told SC. "This is part of our effort to improve policy awareness with developers and reduce any preventable disruption to their app's availability on Play."

Get daily email updates

SC Media's daily must-read of the most current and pressing daily news

By clicking the Subscribe button below, you agree to SC Media Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.