Google has not updated its core apps for the iOS platform in over two months, following Apple’s enhanced privacy declarations.

On 8 December 2020, Apple implemented a ‘nutrition label’ for apps on its App Store to explain to the user just what the app will do with their personal data – in a move that advertisers are not all happy with.

Google of course depends on advertising revenue. But last month TechCrunch confirmed Google was not opposing these privacy labels, and was in fact preparing to them roll out across its iOS app portfolio.

No updates

But now over two months has passed since Apple’s new privacy label rule, and Google has failed to update more than 80 apps to comply with the requirement.

This has resulted in iOS users reportedly being told apps are out of date.

Google’s reported confirmation that it would rollout privacy labels, is in contrast to other media reports that suggested that Google has slowed down updating its iOS apps, because it was not ready to be transparent about the data it collects from its users.

Google, for the record, used to update its apps on a regular basis.

Indeed, some Google apps (such as Google Chrome) were updated as often as once every two weeks.

Google Photo was updated almost weekly until two months ago; so too were YouTube, Google Maps and Gmail, the Guardian reported.

And it seems that out of the 86 apps Google has published on the iOS App Store, only three – Google Slides, Google Play Music and TV, and Google Translate – have been updated in 2021.

Of those three, just one – Google Translate – has a privacy label, which lists 25 ways personal data may be used.

Advertiser concern

It is no secret there has been plenty of unease with Apple’s move to clearly explain how apps use people’s data.

Alarm for advertisers was triggered at Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2020, when the iPhone maker revealed that with iOS 14, app developers would need to provide more information about the data they collect on users, with Apple displaying a summary of how apps use data such as location or tracking information.

Essentially, apps would be required to show a pop-up label before they enable a form of tracking commonly needed to show personalised ads. Essentially the labels will detail financial and location information, to browsing and purchase history.

Apple said that the new feature was aimed at giving users greater transparency over how their information is being used.

But Apple’s move did not go down well with advertisers, and in July 2020, a group of European digital advertising associations criticised Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules.

Facebook opposition

Developers were previously required to have a privacy policy and link it to their App Store product page, but the new labels will now package this privacy policy into a more visual format. They will be displayed near reviews and details about in-app purchases.

And Facebook (which depends on advertising for a large portion of its revenues) is also not a fan.

In August 2020 Facebook warned that while Apple’s new privacy rules would spare its own apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, it would impact smaller developers.

The social networking giant has continued to protest against the move, including with full page newspaper adverts.

Apple in September last year said it would delay the implementation of its new privacy controls, after the pushback from both Facebook and advertising associations.

Despite that delay, the iPad maker went ahead and implemented the new privacy controls in December 2020.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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