Google Warns Android App Developers Over Data Sharing

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Google warns app developers working with UK data company Huq to be clearer about what they are sharing, amidst privacy concerns

Google has sent warnings to specific app developers telling them to be clearer about information they share with UK-based location data company Huq.

Google said companies that fail to comply could be banned from its Android App Store.

The company has already apparently removed some apps it believes works with Huq.

The move comes after Huq acknowledged that at least two of its app-developer partners had not asked users for consent before sharing their location data.

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The apps in question were found to be transmitting location data to Huq even when users had explicitly opted out of this feature.

Huq said it takes data protection “very seriously” and believes all partners are now in compliance.

“As part of our investigation, we have sent a warning to all app developers that we determined were in violation of Google Play policies,” Google said in a statement to Silicon UK, adding that the investigation specifically concerns Huq.

Huq claims to collect one billion location events each day from devices in 161 countries.

The real-time data is sold on to organisations in sectors including local government, retail, real estate and finance.

The firm pays app developers to include lines of code that carry out the location-sharing features, but requires app makers to include a consent mechanism – although the details of this are left to the individual developers.

‘Technical issues’

A report by Vice in October, based on findings from AppCensus, determined that at least two of Huq’s partner apps were transmitting data to Huq even when users explicitly opted out.

Huq later admitted this was the case, but said the issue had been fixed.

“It is possible that we or our partners may uncover future technical issues, but what’s important is how quickly we act and how seriously we take the issue,” Huq told the BBC at the time.

As part of its investigation of Huq’s partners, Google appears to have removed several apps that it believed work with Huq, including a Spanish-language lottery app, a video chat app, a reference app for the popular game League of Legends, and a flight tracker, Vice reported.

Huq also works with iOS app developers. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Data protection

The Danish data authority is currently investigating whether there is a “legal basis” for the way Huq processes personal data.

Separately, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently reprimanded UK-based data collection firm Tamoco for “failing to provide sufficient privacy information to UK citizens” and has asked the firm to “review the personal data they collected to ensure that UK citizens’ data is no longer processed and that any remaining records should be deleted”.

In 2019 Norwegian broadcaster NRK purchased raw data from Tamoco that had been anonymised, but journalists were easily able to determine the real identities of people and track them.