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19
24 Feb, 2023
2 min time to read

Reviewing your permissions is now more convenient with Google's latest update.

Have you recently checked the personal information and permissions you've granted to the apps you frequently use? If you have apps like Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Lite, Snapchat, Minecraft, or Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, whether free or paid, it may be worth taking a second look. The privacy policies of these apps may reveal that you've authorized them to share your user information with various companies, including advertisers, internet service providers, and platforms. Essentially, while it's your data, it could easily be transmitted elsewhere without your knowledge.

A new study titled "See No Evil: How Loopholes in the Google Play Store's Data Safety Labels Leave Companies in the Clear and Consumers in the Dark," conducted by Mozilla Foundation researchers, examined whether Google Play Store's data safety labels provide accurate information about the personal data that apps collect, use, and share with consumers.

Mozilla discovered that in 80% of the apps examined, the self-reported information on Google's Data Safety Form differed from what the apps' policies actually state. While Google allows individuals to control what information they share with the company, the researchers found that the loopholes they discovered were "serious." They added that Google releases itself from the responsibility of verifying whether the information is accurate by stating that apps "are responsible for making complete and accurate declarations" in their data safety labels.

Mozilla conducted a study comparing privacy policies and labels of the top 20 free and paid apps on Google Play Store. Each label was rated as "Poor," "Needs Improvement," or "Okay" based on the extent of discrepancies between what the app companies told Google and the actual practices.

Out of 40 apps, 16 or 40% received a "Poor" rating, including Minecraft, Twitter, and Facebook. 15 apps or 37.5% received a "Needs Improvement" rating, including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, TikTok, WhatsApp Messenger, and Instagram. Only six apps or 15% received an "Okay" rating, including Candy Crush Saga, Google Play Games, Subway Surfers, Stickman Legends Offline Games, Power Amp Full Version Unlocker, and League of Stickman: 2020 Ninja.

Jen Caltrider, Project Lead at Mozilla, expressed concern that Google's Data Safety labels are misleading and do more harm than good. She called for honest data safety labels to help consumers protect their privacy.

To protect themselves, consumers should review an app's permissions and turn off what concerns them. Checking the permissions an app uses can help gauge trustworthiness. Consumers should also read through the privacy policy and look for the words "collect" or "sell" to determine what personal info the app is gathering. Caltrider also advised deleting unnecessary apps to keep privacy policies and security vulnerabilities in check.