Mozilla study finds Google Play Store data privacy labels to be false or misleading for most top apps

While Google Play Store’s data safety labels say apps like Facebook and Twitter do not share personal data with third parties, the apps’ privacy policies state otherwise

Updated - February 23, 2023 02:45 pm IST

Published - February 23, 2023 02:40 pm IST

Discrepancies were found in Google Play Store’s data safety labels in apps like Twitter and Facebook.

Discrepancies were found in Google Play Store’s data safety labels in apps like Twitter and Facebook. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Data privacy labels for most top apps in Google Play Store are false or misleading with discrepancies being reported in nearly 80% of the reviewed apps, a study conducted by Mozilla shared.

Google Play Store’s Data Safety labels show that apps like Facebook or Twitter do not share users’ personal data with third parties, however, the app’s privacy policies explicitly state they share user information with advertisers, internet providers, platforms, and numerous types of companies, the report shared.

The study found that data privacy labels were false or misleading based on discrepancies between the app’s privacy policies and information apps self-reported on the Google Data Safety form.

The study compared privacy policies and labels of the 20 most popular paid apps and the 20 most popular free apps on the Google Play Store. It graded 40% of the reviewed apps including Minecraft, Twitter, and Facebook, “Poor” due to major discrepancies on their Data Safety Forms.

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37.5% of apps, including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, WhatsApp Messenger, TikTok, and Instagram were rated “Needs Improvement” and just 15% of apps which included Candy Crush Saga, Google Play Games, and others received an “Ok” rating as their privacy policies closely aligned with their disclosures. While three apps, UC Browser - Safe, Fast, Private; League of Stickman Acti; and Terraria did not fill out the form.

Loopholes in the Data Safety form make it easy for apps to provide incorrect information. And, Google absolves itself of the responsibility to verify the information provided by apps by stating that apps “are responsible for making complete and accurate declarations” in its Data Safety labels, the study shared.

The study also concluded that the Google Play Store’s data safety labels fail to help consumers make more informed choices about their privacy before purchasing or downloading apps from the platform.

‘”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, at Mozilla.

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