Data privacy labels for most top apps in Google Play Store misleading: Mozilla

by IANS |

San Francisco, Feb 23 (IANS) A Mozilla study on Thursday claimed that in nearly 80 per cent of the apps reviewed on Google Play Store, it found the data privacy labels were false or misleading based on discrepancies between the apps' privacy policies and the information apps self-reported on Google's Data Safety Form.

The researchers said that the system fails to help consumers make more informed choices about their privacy before purchasing or downloading one of the store's 2.7 million apps.

The study uncovers serious loopholes in the Data Safety Form, which make it easy for apps to provide false or misleading information.

"Consumers care about privacy and want to make smart decisions when they download apps. Google's Data Safety labels are supposed to help them do that. Unfortunately, they don't. Instead, I'm worried they do more harm than good," said Jen Caltrider, Project Lead, Mozilla.

"When I see Data Safety labels stating that apps like Twitter or TikTok don't share data with third parties, it makes me angry because it is completely untrue. Of course, Twitter and TikTok share data with third parties. Consumers deserve better. Google must do better," he added.

For example, Google exempts apps sharing data with "service providers" from its disclosure requirements, which is problematic due to both the narrow definition it uses for service providers and the large amount of consumer data involved.

The study said that Google absolves itself of the responsibility to verify whether the information is true stating that apps "are responsible for making complete and accurate declarations" in their Data Safety labels.

For the study, Mozilla compared privacy policies and labels of the 20 most popular paid apps and the 20 most popular free apps on Google Play Store.

It found that 16 out of 40 apps, or 40 per cent, received a "Poor" grade, including Minecraft, Twitter, and Facebook.

Around 15 apps, or 37.5 per cent, received a middle grade, "Needs Improvement", including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, WhatsApp Messenger, and Instagram.

Just six of the 40 apps received an "OK" grade. These apps were: Candy Crush Saga, Google Play Games, Subway Surfers, Stickman Legends Offline Games, PowerAmp Full Version Unlocker, and League of Stickman: 2020 Ninja.

Three apps, UC Browser, League of Stickman Acti, and Terraria did not fill out the form at all.

"Google Play Store's misleading Data Safety labels give users a false sense of security. Honest nutrition labels help us eat better. It's time we have honest data safety labels to help us better protect our privacy," said Caltrider.

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