Are the apps that users download the most from the Google Play Store really reliable? Maybe not as much as we think. The Mozilla Foundation, creator of the famous Mozilla Firefox browser, has carried out an investigation in which it allegedly discovered “serious gaps” in the data security labels of apps such as TikTok, Twitter or Facebook.
According to The Verge, 80 percent of the 40 most downloaded apps reportedly have discrepancies between the information in the data security section of Google Play and the privacy policies displayed by the apps.
Last year, Google debuted its data privacy section in the Google Play Store, making developers solely responsible for providing “complete and accurate disclosures” about all information collected by their apps hosted in the app store.
According to Mozilla, the data security form that developers must sign would feature loose definitions for concepts such as “collection” or “sharing,” and would not require registered apps to report what data is shared with “service providers.” For these reasons, it would not accurately reflect what user data is actually collected.
16 of the 40 apps analyzed by Mozilla, including the top 20 free apps and the top 20 paid apps (such as Twitter or Facebook), were rated “poor”, and another 15 apps (such as YouTube, WhatsApp or TikTok) received a “needs improvement” rating. Only 6 of the apps were rated as acceptable, including Google Play Games, Candy Crush Saga and Terraria.
Faced with these assessments, Google issued a statement dismissing the study and discrediting Mozilla’s rating system: “This report confuses company-wide privacy policies, which are intended to cover a variety of products and services, with individual data security labels, which inform users about the data a specific app collects,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.
This is not the first time that controversy has knocked on the door of the Google Play Store. At the end of September last year, a group of researchers discovered that nearly a hundred apps hosted on both Google’s app store and Apple’s App Store were committing ad fraud.