About 90 per cent of free apps on the Play store share user data with Google without their consent, according to a new Financial Times report. This data, which is said to include age, gender, location, and information about other apps, helps build detailed user profile. The harvested data can then be used for a number of purposes including targeted advertising, the report adds. Making revenue for tech behemoths like Google in the process. The report also suggests that free news apps and apps aimed at children are more likely to share user data with Google.
Google has however denied the report saying it mischaracterises some ordinary functions of apps and that the company takes action if an app violates its policies. "It mischaracterizes ordinary functional services like crash reporting and analytics, and how apps share data to deliver those services. Across Google and in Google Play we have clear policies and guidelines for how developers and third-party apps can handle data and we require developers to be transparent and ask for user permission. If an app violates our policies, we take action," a Google spokesperson was quoted by BBC as saying.
Google is not the only tech company in the middle of all this data harvesting, according to the report. Nearly 43 per cent of apps share data with Facebook, and multiple apps share user data with companies like Twitter, Verizon, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Google, Facebook et al are known to collect user data and monetize it through targeted advertising. They have been doing this for a while now. Only now, multiple scandals have emerged, leading privacy advocates and users to demand greater transparency from tech companies in how much data they have stored on them. There has been growing demand to let users have complete control over their data and delete is as and when they like.
The European GDPR law is a manifestation of this demand. The GDPR law has in fact forced Google into changing the way it bundles its apps -- which are in fact Google services -- on Android phones in the European Union. Starting from October 29, the global search engine giant will charge an undisclosed licensing fee from phone makers that want to pre-install its services like Gmail, Maps and YouTube in the European Economic Area (EEU).