Google still has not updated most of its iOS apps since privacy labeling took effect

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,905   +760
Staff member
In context: Companies have vocally opposed Apple's recent App Store policy change requiring them to reveal how their apps collect data and with whom they share it. While users applaud the transparency, advertisers are afraid it will kill their revenue, especially once iOS 14 begins requiring apps to ask permission to collect data.

Apple began requiring its privacy "nutrition labels" in the App Store back on December 8. The rollout was (and still is) under soft enforcement. That is to say, developers are not required to update their apps with the labels immediately but are required to include them in their next patch.

Back in January, we noticed Google had not updated any of its iOS apps. Most of them had not seen a patch since December 7, the day before the privacy labeling deadline. We speculated that Google might have been taking advantage of soft enforcement to delay revealing its data collection policies to users for as long as possible. However, Google never responded to requests for comment.

Now we are a good two months into Apple's transparency policy, and Google still has not released updates to most of its apps. Ars Technica points out that YouTube is the only Google-owned app that has the privacy labels. It is also worth mentioning that YouTube is still operated independently from Google, headed up by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, which could explain why it is the only one.

So much time has elapsed since the other apps have seen an update that Google's servers started flagging users, warning them that their apps were out-of-date. Presumably, the search giant had set an automatic warning to go out after users had not updated them for about two months. In this case, it was Google not giving users anything to download that set off the messages.

Admins have since reset the warning messages, but apps, including Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Chrome, Drive, Photos, Keep, and Duo, have yet to receive updates. The only thing we have heard on the issue from Google was in a blog post on privacy from January 12, stating that the labels were coming in future updates.

"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," said Vice President of Product, Privacy Rahul Roy-Chowdhury. "These labels represent the maximum categories of data that could be collected—meaning if you use every available feature and service in the app."

Nowhere else in the post does he mention when these "new features and bug fixes" will be coming. So we ask again: "How long can Google go without updating its iPhone apps?" My guess would be until there comes a severe security flaw, it cannot ignore, but I'm a pessimist.

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candle_86

Posts: 729   +729
Honestly in Google's position I'd update the iOS apps with a purchase cost. They live and die on advertisement so I say put all of their apps the updated versions on the OS store and start charging 5.99 a piece, yearly.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 371   +643
Can't help but to think that Apple is really happy to take the banner of the "Privacy conscious company" mostly because this is the intended result: They know they have a strong if not outright dominant market position with their hardware and now they can basically get their major competitors to kick themselves off their platform willingly.

Eventually they will just drop the pretense and just buy out or start their own social network and greatly expand their services, probably also financing it by selling to advertisers, but they're betting they'll be too big to fail at it despite criticism.
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 285   +377
I sense the lawsuit of the century incoming fast. The trillion dollar trial vs Apple.
I do value my privacy a lot, but this has nothing to do with privacy. This is all about stealing the competition's business with antitrust.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,441   +1,039
Because how do you think apple funds R&D, hardware sales alone won't do it, you can bet apple is harvesting data.
Apple actually do pay for most R&D from hardware and software sales. Apples Ad revenue accounts for less than 5% of its revenue at best, it’s not a significant income for them. They can afford to lose it. Google on the other hand can’t afford to lose their ad revenue as their primary business model is to sell consumer data. With Google you are the product, with Apple the hardware is the product.
 

Wasteak

Posts: 47   +36
Honestly in Google's position I'd update the iOS apps with a purchase cost. They live and die on advertisement so I say put all of their apps the updated versions on the OS store and start charging 5.99 a piece, yearly.

In a ideal world, yeah, but nowadays people expect to have things for free without any data being collected. Which doesn't exist.
 

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 673   +582
Thanks Google your making my decision to finally replace my S7 Edge most likely with an iPhone much easier. I have very little love of Apple but on the whole I still find them far more trustworthy than Google. I wish Apple would put more effort into apps like maps and and I'll bet they will do their own search engine eventually. Maybe they could support DuckDuckGo as an alternative to Google. I don't use many Google apps on my iPad, certainly not gmail or Chrome, mostly maps and even for search I use Startpage a privacy oriented version of Google search.
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,441   +1,039
Thanks Google your making my decision to finally replace my S7 Edge most likely with an iPhone much easier. I have very little love of Apple but on the whole I still find them far more trustworthy than Google. I wish Apple would put more effort into apps like maps and and I'll bet they will do their own search engine eventually. Maybe they could support DuckDuckGo as an alternative to Google. I don't use many Google apps on my iPad, certainly not gmail or Chrome, mostly maps and even for search I use Startpage a privacy oriented version of Google search.
You can change the default search engine in the iPhone Safari settings page and you can use duck duck go.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,806   +1,038
Thanks Google your making my decision to finally replace my S7 Edge most likely with an iPhone much easier. I have very little love of Apple but on the whole I still find them far more trustworthy than Google. I wish Apple would put more effort into apps like maps and and I'll bet they will do their own search engine eventually. Maybe they could support DuckDuckGo as an alternative to Google. I don't use many Google apps on my iPad, certainly not gmail or Chrome, mostly maps and even for search I use Startpage a privacy oriented version of Google search.

Yeah, same. Never thought I would say this, but with the direction Samsung is going, LG and Sony just fumbling all their phones, and Google's track record with privacy, when it finally comes time to replace my Note 9, I am probably going to have to a long, hard look at the iPhone. I still hate the UI/UX of the whole thing, and despise the way they try to force hardware upgrades every two years, but I'll hold my nose if it means more control of my data.
 
You are aware that Apple is doing this because they want to be the only ones to have their consumers data, right?
Nothing is stopping their competitors from collecting all the data they want, they just have to be upfront about it now. Even if Apple is skirting under the radar, I'd still rather them have my data than disgusting facebook and other social media empires that do nothing but ruin the world.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 604   +571
...and despise the way they try to force hardware upgrades every two years, but I'll hold my nose if it means more control of my data.

If you mean Apple, that's not correct. Apple doesn't force you to upgrade every 2 years. You must be thinking of Androids.

I still have my Apple 6S Plus (7 years old now) and it's working perfectly.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,806   +1,038
If you mean Apple, that's not correct. Apple doesn't force you to upgrade every 2 years. You must be thinking of Androids.

I still have my Apple 6S Plus (7 years old now) and it's working perfectly.
Apple has literally lost lawsuits over updates deliberately slowing down older phones in the name of "battery life".