Apple has introduced the App Tracking Transparency feature for months and has finally rolled out the feature with the iOS 14.5 update. Previously, unlike Facebook, Google had not commented on the feature or shown any signs of support with Apple. The search engine giant was neutral on the situation until recently.
Google recently announced that its store, Google Play, will now follow in Apple’s footsteps. The tech giant pre-announced its plans to introduce a new “safety” section in Google Play, rolling out next year, which will require app developers to share what sort of data their apps collect, how it’s stored, and how it’s used.
Google Following Apple’s Lead
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency forced developers to ask permission from users before tracking them, Google’s Safety feature more or less operates the same way. Developers will need to share what sort of personal information their apps collect, like users’ names or emails, and whether it collects information from the phone, like the user’s precise location, their media files, or contacts
Apps will also be required to explain how the app uses the collected information for example, for enhancing the app’s functionality or for personalization purposes for example a gallery cleaner app will need access to the user’s gallery to sort out duplicate and similar media. Developers will have to comply with the updated security and policy practices.
Google further explained that it will add new features that will further investigate if the app uses security practices like data encryption; if the app follows Google’s Families policy, related to child safety; if the app’s safety section has been verified by an independent third party; whether the app needs data to function or allows users to choose whether or not to share data; and whether the developer agrees to delete user data when a user uninstalls the app in question.
Differences between Google’s and Apple’s Privacy Labels
While the overall purpose of both the added privacy features is the same, there are key differences between how both tech giants have approached the feature. Apple’s labels focus on what data is being collected for tracking purposes and what’s linked to the end-user. Whereas, Google’s additions seem to be more about whether or not you can trust the data being collected is being handled responsibly, by allowing the developer to showcase if they follow best practices around data security.
Google will also allow the app to be independently verified. This will be a crackdown on the validity of the apps and their creators. Inaccurate or misleading data will no longer be accepted.
Release Date and Further Details
Google Play’s ‘Safety Section’ will not be released till the second quarter of 2022. The purpose of announcing the feature ahead of time is to give developers ample time to prepare accordingly.
It is worth noting how the entire debacle reeks of irony. When Apple rolled out its App Tracking Transparency feature, It took Google months after the deadline had passed to provide labels for its top apps. And when it did, it was mocked by critics — like privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo — for how much data apps like Chrome and the Google, app collect.
Google privacy forward features to shift the narrative and gave it some sort of relief from the bombardment of accusations. This feature is not a privacy push but is designed to information is collected and how it is used.
According to Google, non-compliant apps will be required to fix their violations or become subject to policy enforcement when the changes are implemented. Details about how the changes will be implemented have not been revealed yet.