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Weeks later, Google still hasn’t added privacy labels to its most popular iPhone apps

Weeks later, Google still hasn’t added privacy labels to its most popular iPhone apps

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Some of the apps that have the disclosures are unexpected

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Three weeks after Google promised it would add Apple’s mandatory app privacy labels “as soon as this week,” none of the company’s main apps have the labels, including Gmail, search, Photos, Docs, and YouTube.

There have been some questions about whether Google is purposefully not updating its apps to avoid the labels, so I looked through every Google app in the iOS App Store to find out whether the updates have been coming.

Some have: 12 apps now have the iOS privacy labels, though they may not be as recognizable as YouTube or Gmail:

  • Stadia
  • Google Translate
  • Google Authenticator 
  • Google Play Movies and TV
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Fiber
  • Google Fiber TV
  • Wear OS
  • Onduo for Diabetes
  • Project Baseline
  • Google Smart Lock
  • Motion Stills - GIF, Collage

Clicking through to the privacy labels, they seem to make sense. Some of the apps, like Google Authenticator, don’t capture much information, while Google Translate and Classroom have a pretty hefty list of privacy notices.

Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Google is capturing all of that information just from you opening the app. The privacy label just shows all of the things the app may capture depending on which features you use. And while you may have to scroll a bit through the list, it’s nothing like Facebook’s seemingly endless list.

The privacy info for Authenticator fits on one screen.
The privacy info for Authenticator fits on one screen.

There are some oddities, though. “Motion Stills - GIF, Collage” is an app that hasn’t been updated for three years, yet it has the privacy labels. It’s probably fair to say that this wasn't the app we had in mind when Google promised it would start rolling them out.

The privacy label for an app that hasn’t been updated in three years.
The privacy label for an app that hasn’t been updated in three years.

Apple launched these privacy labels on December 14th, and companies like Google can no longer update their apps unless they add these privacy labels first. So when some people noticed that Google had stopped updating its apps, they speculated that it may be to avoid having to admit how much data it was collecting.

Google has denied that, though, explicitly telling TechCrunch that it wasn’t holding back updates and that it was committed to adding the labels when those updates were ready. The company reiterated that promise in a privacy-focused blog post on January 12th:

As Google’s iOS apps are updated with new features or to fix bugs, you’ll see updates to our app page listings that include the new App Privacy Details. These labels represent the maximum categories of data that could be collected—meaning if you use every available feature and service in the app. 

They are rolling out. It’s just not clear when Google will update its most popular apps — the ones that likely suck up the most user data, anyhow.

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