Google shows off Play Store’s upcoming data privacy section

Technology

Google has revealed an in-progress design for the Play Store’s upcoming safety section, which will provide information about an app’s data collection, privacy, and security practices. Announced in May, developers will be able to start declaring their safety info in October until a deadline of April next year. The safety section is currently due to start appearing in app descriptions in the first quarter of 2022.

Although Google says the design is subject to change, screenshots released today show the safety section sitting above a listing’s existing Ratings & reviews section. It offers a summary of an app’s data privacy features, including the types of data collected and whether data is encrypted. There’s also a “See details” option to get more specifics on what collected data is used for, and whether the collection is essential for using the app.

The section allows developers to “give a user deeper insight into their privacy and security practices, as well as explain the data the app may collect and why — all before a user installs the app,” Google says. If developers haven’t provided the information by the time the section starts appearing, a “No information available” message will appear in its place in the listing. Eventually, apps that don’t provide the information could see their updates blocked, Google has previously said.

Google’s safety section — which will be required by all third-party and first-party Google apps — follows the introduction of very similar “privacy labels” to Apple’s App Store last year. Like Google’s section, Apple’s labels are designed to offer more transparency about user data collection, including whether it’s used to track users or is personally identifiable.

Apple and Google’s initiatives have arrived as their respective app stores are facing intense antitrust scrutiny over concerns they give the two companies too much control over their respective mobile ecosystems. A core part of Apple and Google’s arguments is that their stores help keep mobile users safe. New initiatives like privacy labels and safety sections seem like an attempt to bolster these arguments.