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Google Play hides app permissions in favor of developer-written descriptions

Google’s developer deadline for the Play Store’s new “Data Safety” section is next week (July 20), and we’re starting to see what the future of Google Play privacy will look like. The actual Data Safety section started rolling out in April, but now that the developer deadline is approaching… Google is turning off the separate “app permissions” section? That doesn’t sound like a great move for privacy at all.

The Play Store’s new Data Safety section is Google’s answer to a similar feature in iOS 14, which displays a list of developer-provided privacy considerations, like what data an app collects, how that data is stored, and who the data is shared with. At first blush, the Data Safety entries might seem pretty similar to the old list of app permissions. You get items like “location,” and in some ways, it’s better than a plain list of permissions since developers can explain how and why each bit of data is collected.

The difference is in how that data ends up in Google’s system. The old list of app permissions was guaranteed to be factual because it was built by Google, automatically, by scanning the app. The Data Safety system, meanwhile, runs on the honor system. Here’s Google’s explanation to developers of how the new section works:

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