Mozilla did some digging and it turns out that Google Play’s data privacy labels are being misused

Mozilla did some digging and it turns out that Google Play’s data privacy labels are being misused
What’s a privacy label and why do you care? Well, actually you do care, but you just didn't know the name of the things. These are the small bubbles that indicate what type of private user data an app will use or gather when you install it. Basically, they save you from being disappointed after installing an app, as they are displayed on the Google Play store page of the app.

This feature was introduced by Google back in April of last year and it's really awesome. Not that installing, trying out and uninstalling apps is really time-consuming, but why bother when you can know what the app expects of you in-advance? Its like checking if the app is still usable through browsing the update log or checking the comments for anything fishy. It's another way to quickly become informed, which is super important, especially when we’re talking about premium apps.

Well, now you can basically pour all that positivity down the drain, because Mozilla — the company behind one of the most loved internet browsers — did some digging for fun, but instead of diamonds, it found out that even the top Google Play apps are misleading users through mislabeling its products.

But how did Mozilla’s team reach this conclusion? Well, they took the top 20 free and premium apps from the Google Play Store and checked if how they are labeled matched the actual way the apps behaved. In a rather shocking turn of events, 32 out of the 40 tested apps had at least some minor misconceptions, with 16 of them having heavily misled users. Out of all of the tested apps, only 6 managed to come completely clean.

The factual results probably won't shock anyone, as among the apps that did poorly on Mozilla’s test were social platforms, with TikTok — of course — getting things so wrong that it appears the short form video content app is outright lying.

The one that will make you go “Ha!” out loud is about Google’s very own apps, which also need a bit of tweaking, as per Mozilla’s findings.

Now, this is both a call to action for moderation and a question regarding the precise competitive nature of the PlayStore. It would seem that Google puts all responsibility for labeling apps properly on the developers, which implies that moderation isn’t really a thing at this point. Furthermore, Mozilla’s examination of the labels themselves concludes that its definitions aren’t exhaustive at all, which damages its idea and impact on the whole.

Jen Caltrider, who led the team that undertook this task, worries that this mislabeling of apps does more harm than good, as users get misled into thinking that an app doesn’t use their private data in instances where it absolutely does.

While labels in theory are a really cool and straightforward way of informing people, the idea itself circles around to something that Google Play often does: it gives tools, but heavily under defines them, which leads to instances like this. Hopefully, Google will take the feedback and run with it, because the overall idea is still valuable for the store and for its consumers.

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