Does Your App Have a Privacy Policy?

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Google to Punish Apps that Violate its User Data Policy

Did you by chance receive a notice like this? If yes, then Google would probably descend on your app – and they mean business.

 

One of the most common violations of Google’s User Data Policy is the lack of a privacy policy. The absence of a privacy policy means that you, as a developer failed to properly disclose the whys and hows of handling sensitive user data within your app.

 

Several of the sensitive user data that apps often handle are:

  • Personal information used for identification purposes
  • Financial and payment information
  • Authentication information
  • Contact list
  • Data from camera sensor
  • Sensitive device data

If your app handles any of these types of sensitive data, then you must provide a privacy policy in the Developer Console and within the app itself. The policy also includes the secure handling and transmitting of user data.

 

So, if you are still unable to comply by March 15, Google will “limit” the visibility of your app in the store listing or remove it altogether. A lot of tech news outlets call Google’s drastic policy enforcement as a “purge”. The said purge is estimated to “cleanse” the Play Store from millions of apps. Even some app developers think that this is a positive thing. A few of the cited benefits are:

  • The decongestion of the Play Store
  • A safer app experience
  • Improvement in the standards of the store listing through the elimination of low-quality apps and “zombie apps”. The so-called zombie apps refer to apps that had been up and running for several years without being updated
  • Increased visibility for original apps

 

What Can You Do About This?

The simple answer would be to comply with Google’s policy. There are two ways you can do this.

  • If you don’t have any experience in creating a privacy policy, you can either learn through basic privacy policy templates and guides or you can use a privacy policy generator service.
  • Remove all requests for sensitive user data. This is possible if your app’s function doesn’t depend on the input of user data.

At the end of the day, this is not just about the apps but the welfare of the app users. The Carnegie Mellon University revealed that of the 18,000 free Android apps they analyzed, almost half lack a privacy policy. Not only that, 71% of these apps’ permission request handle personal user data. You won’t want your app to be a part of that 71%.

 

As the Carnegie Mellon University reiterated, there are federal and state laws in the US that require mobile apps to have a privacy policy and follow the said policy.   Therefore, this privacy policy requirement is not limited to the Google Play Store.

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