Google is changing its mind and reversing a recent decision to hide the app whitelist from product listings on your Play Store.
O Android developers’ official Twitter account tweeted (opens in new tab) the team has heard the public outcry and will reinstate the whitelist. The tweet goes on to say that “privacy and transparency are core values in the Android community” and they want to defend that. Users will be able to cross-reference what’s in the Data Security section with Google’s whitelist and ensure that app developers are honest about the data they collect.
The tweet also states that the “app permissions section will be back soon.” Examining the Google Play Store, the app’s whitelist was not back at the time of writing. We reached out to Google to see if they could provide a more concrete release date or window. We’ll update this story if we get a response.
The original story was that Google released a new Play Store feature called data security which required developers to disclose what data they were collecting and whether it was being shared with third parties, among other things. It looked great on paper until Google decided to whitelist the app.
People can use whitelisting to verify developer claims and better understand what developers do with user information. But without the list, you can’t verify the developer’s claims. Instead of creating a more transparent environment, Google has made it more obscure.
The data security section essentially runs on the honor system. looking through Google’s Data Security page on their support site (opens in new tab)Google states that developers “are responsible for making complete and accurate statements in [their] the app store listing on Google Play.” He adds that while Google reviews apps, “it cannot determine on behalf of developers how they handle user data.” Basically, it won’t tell developers what to do.
The problem with an honor system is that developers are under no obligation to be honest with customers. Why be honest if they don’t have to? Developers could have potentially collected all the sensitive data they wanted and users wouldn’t have noticed. Re-establishing the whitelist should alleviate some concerns. People are better informed, Google looks good and apps are more reliable.
Analysis: Understandable fear
The negative reaction from the community is not unwarranted. Data collection is a consequence of living in a technology-saturated world. Collecting this information is important for developers to improve their applications, but many users are afraid of losing control of their data. 2022 had its fair share of big data breaches from the March attack on Microsoft or the Cash App breach (opens in new tab) in April.
Google asked to increase security across the tech industry, but occasionally their actions run counter to these privacy and security aspirations. And sometimes, in an effort to simplify their systems, they lose sight of the larger goals. It’s nice to see, however, how quickly it can course-correct.
If you are interested in promoting privacy, check out our list of best privacy tools, free and paid.