Google avoiding Facebook-like controversy about user privacy and data collection by stagnating Apple iPhone iOS app updates, claims report

Is Google deliberately stalling iOS app updates to avoid Apple App Privacy Labels? Pic credit: Roman Boed/Creative Commons

Google may have found a polite, albeit temporary solution to avoid Apple’s “App Privacy Labels”. The company could be intentionally stalling updates for its apps that iPhone users install in Apple’s iOS mobile operating system.

A new report claims Google could have stalled the deployment of updates for Apple iPhones that run iOS. The search giant has sent out multiple updates to the same apps on other operating systems, namely Android.

Is Google avoiding Facebook Vs. Apple privacy and data collection controversy?

Apple rolled out its new App Privacy labels on the App Store last month. Accordingly, developers must provide detailed privacy information about what data is collected from users.

Apple’s new App Privacy “nutrition labels” have the following guidelines for developers:

  • Developers should identify all possible data collections and uses, even if certain data will be collected and used only in limited situations.
  • Developers’ answers should follow the App Store Review Guidelines and any applicable laws.
  • Developers are responsible for keeping your responses accurate and up-to-date. If your practices change, update your responses in App Store Connect.

As expected, an updated Facebook app for iOS had a huge list that took users a lot of time to go through. Social media users have always known Facebook gathers a lot of user data and information. However, Apple’s new App Privacy labels were still astonishing for many.

Facebook wasn’t amused and a virtual tussle between the social media giant and Apple Inc. ensued. While the iPhone maker refused to bow down, Facebook stripped Apple’s “Blue Tick of Authentication”.

Despite Facebook’s retaliation and thinly veiled threats, the Apple App Privacy Labels are still going strong. However, Google has seemingly found a solution to skirt the entire issue.

Is Google letting its apps for iOS stagnate to avoid revealing just how much user data it collects?

Apple started mandating developers to submit their new privacy information to the App Store. Any and all apps updated on or after December 8 must have the required information.

Apple categorizes the information under multiple sections. It essentially lays bare the otherwise deliberately obscured ecosystem of user data collection.

The new Apple App Privacy labels started becoming visible to users from December 14, coinciding with the release of iOS 14.3. Under the new regime, in order to release an update to their applications, developers must also provide this privacy information.

A report from Fast Company notes that the last time Google updated any of its iOS applications was December 7. This is a day before Apple mandated developers to provide privacy details for their applications.

Users interested in knowing the extent of data collection by google are greeted with the message: “No Details Provided.” How will users gain access to the truth, when Google is yet to submit any update to all of its iOS apps?

The unavailability of updates would have been understandable if there was uniformity. However, Google has sent updates to its apps on Android since December 7, 2020. In some cases, a few apps have received multiple updates since December 7.

Google may still be compiling the relevant information that Apple seeks for its App Privacy Labels. However, the majority of developers have already complied.

It is quite likely that Google might be tweaking its privacy practices to avoid the bad publicity that Facebook received. Incidentally, several companies apart from Facebook have concerningly long App Privacy labels.

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