It is all becoming a bit confusing now. Google has still not released any updates for its popular apps meant for the Apple iPhone users, and the App Privacy labels that are now mandated with every app listed on the App Store, remain unpopulated. This means that popular apps including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Chrome and Google Photos, to name a few, haven’t been updated for iPhone users for a month and a bit more. More worryingly, the privacy labels that are meant to guide the user about what data an app collected and what it doesn’t collect, remain empty. The new privacy labels which are now part of every app listing on the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPad and Mac, is designed to give users a quick glance at what data each app collects from you and what it doesn’t. The idea is to make it simpler for users to know, before the download an app, exactly what data the app will require for tracking, what data will be linked to you and what is not.
Google had, in a statement to TechCrunch published on January 12 had confirmed that the labels will be rolling out anytime now. “As Google’s iOS apps are updated with new features or to fix bugs, you’ll see updates to our app page listings that include the new App Privacy Details. These labels represent the maximum categories of data that could be collected—meaning if you use every available feature and service in the app. The data you provide to Google products delivers helpful services to you, and you can always control your privacy settings by visiting your Google Account or going directly to the Google products you use on iOS,” said the statement.
The thing is, the privacy labels remain unpopulated, including for the most popular apps from Google. If Google had rolled out an update for any app on or post December 8, these privacy labels would have had to be populated for the update to be available on the App Store. At this time, none of Google's popular apps have this data filled on the listings page in the App Store. Earlier as well, we had noted that apps including Google Search, Gmail, Google Chrome, Maps, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Meet, YouTube and Google Pay have not been updated for 4 weeks or more, for the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad. Which means the last updates arrived in early December 2020, that is December 7 or before. Apple’s mandatory privacy labels for all apps was rolled out on December 8, 2020.
The App Store Privacy Labels will have three sections—Data used to track you, data linked to you and data that is not linked to you. Under each section will be bullet points listing the exact specifics about the data being collected, including contact info, health and fitness data, financial info, usage data, browsing history, location data, personal identifiers and search history. With this information available at a glance, a user can potentially make a more informed decision about whether they want to download a specific app on the iPhone or iPad or Mac, without falling down the data collection and privacy blackhole that became the norm over the years.
A quick browse through the listings on the Apple App Store at this time makes for what is definitely a mixed bag when it comes to the compliance. Popular apps such as Truecaller have the complete list of data available as part of the privacy labels—data used to track you, data linked to you and data not linked to you. Shopping platform Flipkart and popular digital payments app PhonePe also have the privacy labels live on their app listings on the App Store. Popular payments platform and payments bank Paytm also has the complete privacy labels available for users to check. Facebook and the Facebook owned apps, including the Facebook app, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and WhatsApp for Business are also disclosing the privacy details as part of the privacy labels on the App Store. Microsoft has also updated the apps and the privacy details for their apps, including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft Edge web browser.