Top Apps lie about privacy – Mozilla study

Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser, found that nearly 80% of top apps lie about privacy on Google Play Data Safety label listings.

Its research leads it to state, ‘The Play Store would have us believe that neither TikTok nor Twitter share your personal data with third parties. However, the apps’ privacy policies explicitly state that they share user information with advertisers, Internet service providers, platforms, and numerous other companies.’

In nearly 80% of the apps reviewed, Mozilla found that the labels were false or misleading. This was based on discrepancies between the apps’ privacy policies and the information apps self-reported on Google’s Data Safety Form. Researchers concluded that the system fails to help consumers make more informed choices about their privacy before purchasing or downloading one of the store’s 2.7 million apps.

Google believes in see no evil

The study – “See No Evil: How Loopholes in the Google Play Store’s Data Safety Labels Leave Companies in the Clear and Consumers in the Dark” uncovers serious loopholes in the Data Safety Form, which make it easy for apps to provide false or misleading information.

For example, Google exempts apps sharing data with ‘service providers’ from its disclosure requirements. This is problematic due to its narrow definition for service providers and the large amount of consumer data involved.

Google absolves itself from verifying whether the information is true. It states that apps ‘are responsible for making complete and accurate declarations’ in their Data Safety labels.

Just as Google vehemently maintains, it is not liable for user-published information on its sites.

Google Play Store’s misleading Data Safety labels give users a false sense of security. Honest nutrition labels help us eat better. It is time we have honest data safety labels to help us better protect our privacy.

Jen Caltrider, Project Lead, Mozilla

Here are a few examples

Apple is equally responsible

A 2021 Washington Post investigation found similar problems with the Apple App Store’s labels.

The Mozilla study also questions whether Google and Apple can objectively police the safety of apps in their stores. Google Play and the App Store generated gross revenues of approximately $48 billion U.S. dollars and $60 billion through mobile apps in 2021.

The Biden administration is aware of the issue accusing both app stores of playing ‘a significant gatekeeping role by controlling (and restricting) how apps are distributed.’

CyberShack’s view – read the privacy policy before installing because Apps lie about privacy to entice you to download them

All we can say is that we read every word of every App privacy policy. We look for where the data is stored, what it is used for and whether it is GDPR or California privacy compliant etc.

CyberShack’s consumer advice