Apple rolled out two major privacy features in iOS 14. The new app privacy labels tell users just how much data an app can collect about them. Then there’s the app tracking transparency (ATT) feature that forces developers to ask for permission to track iPhone and iPad users. These tools really upset Facebook, which mounted a massive offensive against Apple’s privacy protections. Hiding behind small businesses, Facebook is practically begging users to allow its apps to track them online. Apple’s new privacy features do not prevent tracking. They’re only meant to make the controversial practice more transparent, offering users information on what sort of data can be collected by forcing developers to be specific when asking users to opt-in.
Google wasn’t as loud as Facebook, although Google’s recent delayed updates with its iOS apps spoke volumes. On the one hand, Google is forced to match iOS’s new privacy features in Android, and the company is already making some moves that show its willingness to build stronger privacy features in its products. On the other hand, Google needs to track users to make money, just like Facebook.
After months of app update delays, Google has finally started releasing new app updates that prove just how much data Google collects on iPhone and iPad. And DuckDuckGo is now shaming Google Chrome and Google Search for “spying” on users.
DuckDuckGo offers a search engine of its own on mobile and desktop, as well as a mobile browser app. The company took to Twitter to publish a comparison between the app privacy labels of DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser, Google Chrome, and Google Search. As expected, the amount of personal data Google collects is staggering. Google never sells that data to advertisers, but it does collect an incredible amount of data about a user’s online habits.
“After months of stalling, Google finally revealed how much personal data they collect in Chrome and the Google app. No wonder they wanted to hide it,” DuckDuckGo said on Twitter. The company referred to Google’s app update pause between mid-December and mid-February that everyone in the business noticed. The Gmail and YouTube updates finally dropped a few weeks ago, exposing the various data points they grab from iPhone and iPad users.
After months of stalling, Google finally revealed how much personal data they collect in Chrome and the Google app. No wonder they wanted to hide it.
Spying on users has nothing to do with building a great web browser or search engine. We would know (our app is both in one). pic.twitter.com/lJBbLTjMuu
— DuckDuckGo (@DuckDuckGo) March 15, 2021
“Spying on users has nothing to do with building a great web browser or search engine. We would know (our app is both in one),” DuckDuckGo said, adding that its Privacy Browser is now the second most downloaded browser in the US after Chrome. The browser “doesn’t collect any data that’s linked to you, making it simple to get the privacy you deserve online.”
That said, the personal-data-for-free-apps trade-off is something many people agree to. Google offers plenty of useful must-have apps and services on mobile and desktop. They’re available for free to users who agree to be tracked so that Google can make money. The same goes for Facebook’s apps, although Google does have a lot more must-have apps in its catalog than the social network. Facebook’s data collection practices on iPhone and iPad are equally scary.
To see what sort of data an app can gather about you, head to the App Store on iPhone, iPad, or in an internet browser, search for the app in question and go to the App Privacy section. There’s not much you can do about it except blocking some data collection by changing permissions. Down the road a bit, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about allowing apps to track you online across apps when the ATT prompts start rolling out.