Android Developers, Pay Attention to Google’s New Data Privacy Rule

If you develop for Android, take note: You may have to adjust your approach to data security as you update and build new apps. Google’s introduction of new security and privacy controls means that developers will have to deal with a new Data Safety form available in the Google Play console.

“We recommend that you review the guidance and submit your form early so you can get review feedback and make changes before rejected forms prevent you from publishing new app updates,” reads a note on Google’s Android developer blog. “Developers have told us that early feedback would help them fill out the form correctly before users see the Data safety section in February 2022.”

Google acknowledges that breaking down how an app handles user data could take some time. “We built the product and timeline based on developer feedback to make this process as streamlined as possible,” the posting added. “Also, developers have asked for a way to more easily import information when they have multiple apps. Therefore, we’ve added an option for developers to import a pre-populated file.”

Starting in February 2022, visitors to Google Play will see a section that summarizes each app’s approach to privacy and security practices. For example, the summaries will list whether the app shares personal data, if data is encrypted in transit, and whether users can request that the app developer delete their data. By April 2022, all apps on Google Play must have an approved Data Safety section. 

Apple has a similar policy in place, asking developers to identify any data that their apps collect (including data collected by third parties). Developers building for iOS and macOS must also list their app’s privacy practices, as well as update those practices on a regular basis. 

Privacy has always been important to many consumers; two years ago, for example, Pew conducted a survey that found 52 percent of respondents wouldn’t use a particular product or service because of data harvesting. However, more companies are now moving to give users those privacy options, often in response to legislation. If you’re a software engineer or other technologist who works on apps or services, you should familiarize yourself with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other laws.

When building software, it’s also key to integrate privacy and security into the development process as early as possible, which could save you considerable headaches. Those technologists interested in exploring a new specialization might also consider studying data privacy and protection, which promises to become a growing field in the years ahead.