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Google steps up Android privacy protections with new warnings

Installing apps from external sources can lead you to an infection because apps aren’t necessarily validated by store approval teams. Nonetheless, many users regularly use external app stores and direct download sites to acquire new apps, potentially putting their device at risk.
Under a new “Unwanted Software Policy” announced late last week, Google will now show warnings when apps acquired in this manner tamper with personal data. Safe Browsing alerts will display for all apps and websites that appear to collect the user’s information without first acquiring explicit consent.
The warnings will start to show up in February after developers have been given a two-month grace period to make any necessary changes. Afterwards, website administrators and app publishers will be able to view any data collection strikes. Google’s help centre.
Advice on making remedial actions will be available inside the facility. Apps can also be submitted for manual review if a developer feels their use of data collection falls within the guidelines.
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“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,” said Google. “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.”
Any app that collects personal data will be subject to the new rules. If a developer includes surreptitious data harvesting in an Android app, Safe Browsing will be able to detect it and warn the user. This will help to crack down on malicious apps, including those from third-party sources that would previously go unnoticed by the Safe Browsing service.
The rules stipulate that any form of data collection could trigger a Safe Browsing warning, including activity where the developer is using it to improve an app. Information uploaded as part of application logs or crash reports could result in a flag for the publisher if it contains user details that haven’t been disclosed. Google’s published new guidelines to help app creators meet the standards, creating a safer ecosystem for users.

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