Internet giant Google has once again found itself in the spotlight over privacy issues – this time over customers personal details being released to app developers.
In what could be the third major privacy case in two years for the firm, a leading campaigner has called on the US government to investigate how users purchasing apps on the firm’s Play Store, may find personal information, including their name and email address, is passed on to the app developers without their permission.
Many developers do not wish to receive such data and have also pressurised the search engine giant to take action, highlighting the privacy implications involved.
Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, has voiced concerns over the matter, warning it creates the potential for some app developers to “track and harass” users who give their app a low score or ask for a refund.
He also emphasised that there is no clear comment in Google’s terms and conditions specifically notifying users that their details will be passed on to the app developer.
The issue has been known for some time however with Eric Butler, a freelance software developer of the Tapchat and Farebot apps, tweeting on the matter back in July 2012. In the tweet he described how the details of people who purchased an app on the Play Store would then be passed on to the seller of the app.
Other developers including Jesse Wilson identified similar concerns relating to Google+ in November, with Chris Lacy voicing concerns shortly after.
On his Google+ profile Lacy said: ” As a developer, I agree 100% with Jesse: I never asked for this information, I have no need for it, and I simply do not want to be a custodian of such information.”
he added: “There would (rightly) be a massive outcry if credit card companies provided such information to a corner store each time a customer bought a loaf of bread. What makes buying items from Google Play any different?
“Frankly, this situation makes me think twice about what items I purchase on the Play Store, and as both a consumer and developer I implore Google to rectify this situation immediately. “
Google however, has denied that details being passed on to app developers is a breach of its privacy conditions, adding that it has to provide some location data in order for developers to correctly calculate the amount of tax to pay.
The firm is also facing repressive action from EU privacy regulators over concerns relating to how the firm unified its numerous privacy policies into one combined policy in March last year, a shift which allowed the firm to use data collected for further Internet marketing purposes – upsetting a group of EU regulators, lead by the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes. They are due to meet today (February 26) to discuss the matter further.
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