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

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:

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.

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.

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.


Motion Stills is a super cool app

Even Facebook has their labels up, and if Google can add them to a 3 year old version of Motion Stills, then why not add them to the existing versions of their other apps too, even if the updates aren’t ready yet? This really makes it seem like the apps are doing things they’re not totally comfortable telling everyone about…

Perhaps it’s time to heed their own mantra?

"If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place."
- Eric Schmidt

(via https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/12/google-ceo-eric-schmidt-dismisses-privacy )

Even Facebook has their labels up

They don’t have much choice given they update the app every other week.

Still, would be nice for Google to do it soon.

Different teams own different apps. The stagger is not a huge surprise.

Yeah I don’t think it’s a huge deal at this point. We’re coming off Christmas where releases are often expected to slow down. Besides, of all the companies out there, we probably have a decent idea just how much information Google is gathering if you want to look into such things. I doubt we’ll have too many surprises, if any, in that privacy sheet.

I don’t blame google for waiting, it’s not like Apple puts the labels on their inbaked apps. You have to go searching online for them…

Agreed. Apple are selling ‘privacy’ but hiding what they are doing with your data. Give it a few years and the EU will fine them for being anti competitive.

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