Google announced something new with a significant effect on app owners. Around February 1st (2018), Google Safe Browsing will show warnings on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user’s personal data without their consent.
The Google Online Security Blog’s announcement outlines:
“In our efforts to protect users and serve developers, the Google Safe Browsing team has expanded enforcement of Google’s Unwanted Software Policy to further tamp down on unwanted and harmful mobile behaviors on Android. As part of this expanded enforcement, Google Safe Browsing will show warnings on apps and on websites leading to apps that collect a user’s personal data without their consent.
This can be quite a significant development as Google plans not only to display warnings for apps on its very own Google Play Store, but also on others such as the big App Store for iOS devices.
How to make sure Safe Browsing penalties don’t happen to you
Handling personal user data unrelated to the app functionality – seek affirmative consent
Google has another policy in place that require any apps that process user data unrelated to the functionality of the app to prominently highlight how the user data will be used and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use, all prior to collection and transmission.
These prominent disclosure requirements basically involve shutting down/pausing the app’s functionality before collecting that consent. You can read more about this here:
How to fix Google Safe Browsing Warning regarding your app
Affirmative consent is closely related to Google’s EU user consent policy. It will be interesting to see if Google starts to enforcing this in this way as well.
(Update: Google has recently introduced some significant changes in relation to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You can read all about the changes and how they will affect you here.)
When the above is done, then do the following as per Google’s guidelines:
- Webmasters whose sites show warnings due to distribution of these apps should refer to the Search Console for guidance on remediation and resolution of the warnings.
- Developers whose apps show warnings should refer to guidance in the Unwanted Software Help Center. Developers can also request an app review using this article on App verification and appeals, which contains guidance applicable to apps in both Google Play and non-Play app stores.