Google plans purge of Play Store apps without privacy policies

When Google's cleanup is complete, the platform could be cleansed of millions of half-baked apps which put your privacy and data at risk.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
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Google has been sending notices to developers across the world revealing plans to penalize Google Play Store apps which do not have valid privacy policies.

As reported by The Next Web, the Mountain View, CA.-based firm intends to "limit the visibility" of applications which do not adhere to current User Data policies -- or remove the worst offenders altogether.

When you consider how many Android apps propagating the Play Store that appear to be slapdash, thrown together for advertising revenue or are nothing more than inferior clones of popular software, it is likely that few of these developers ever really consider user privacy.

According to Google's User Data policy, developers must be "transparent" in how they collect and handle user data, and if an app handles personal or sensitive information, developers are bound by even more restrictions.

Not only does Google require that app data policies are displayed clearly where users can read them, but they must be posted in both a designated field in the Play Developer Console and from within the Play-distributed app itself.

Sensitive information must also be handled securely using modern cryptography, such as over HTTPS.

However, a notice has been sent to Google Play developers warning those that the company says "violate [Google's] User Data policy regarding personal and sensitive information."

"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."

See also: Is Android still a toxic hellstew?

Developers which have received such a notice have until March 15 this year to include a link to a valid privacy policy which submits to Google's rules on their application's Store Listing page, as well as within the app itself. Alternatively, developers can simply remove the permissions request to collect sensitive user information.

If app developers ignore the warning, their applications are at risk of being hidden from view in the App Store or removed altogether.

This is likely to be a welcome move for developers who take the time to ensure their programming and permissions requests are right and user data is handled properly. The planned purge may also be an indication that the tech giant is seeking to tighten control and improve standards in the congested Android app marketplace.

For users, knowing that Google is taking user privacy seriously when it comes to mobile applications can only be welcome news.

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