Google is once again facing antitrust criticisms over how the company handles data collection from various apps.
A recent investigation revealed a clandestine project within Google called Android Lockbox. Reports claim that the project collects various data regarding how people use non-Google apps. The tech giant is reportedly using these sensitive data in the development of its mobile apps.
Internal data collection
According to The Information, several internal company documents point to the existence of this project. The report added that Google used data collected from TikTok users to develop its clone app, Shorts. One employee said that Android Lockbox data were also used on apps with similar functions like TikTok.
Exclusive: An unreported Google effort, internally called Android Lockbox, has for years tapped what the company has referred to as “sensitive” data collected by Android to selectively monitor how users interact with non-Google apps.https://t.co/MB6zlLz1qv
— The Information (@theinformation) July 24, 2020
It appears that the tech giant is working on various projects that blatantly collect user data and breach antitrust policies. In the report, a secret team called Magic Eye tracks how Android users around the world use various apps. The report adds that the team uses Android Lockbox data to discuss with Google executive how rival apps perform.
This particular project has been running since 2013, according to reports. If this is true, then Google is in clear violation of user privacy and anti-competition policies. This gives the tech giant unfair access to sensitive data that it can use to its advantage.
The tech giant said that third-party app developers also have access to these highly sensitive data. It is important to note that user permission is required for companies to access these data. Concerning Google, the tech giant did not ask for user permission when collected data through Android Lockbox.
A grey area of operation
Google is treading a thin line between user privacy and personalized experience. Usually, tech companies ask to collect user data for them to be able to create a more personalized experience. On the other hand, Android permissions are designed to convince users to share data in exchange for a personalized experience.
While this is a widely accepted practice in the tech community, this does not sit well with privacy watchdogs. Tech companies are accused of this malpractice for many years now. In return, privacy issues are masked as ways to further improve the system and create more features for the user.
The United States Congress is expected to hold an antitrust meeting in the coming days. Top tech executives are expected to attend the meeting to discuss antitrust and privacy matters.
Google is not the only company accused of antitrust and privacy violations. Top tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are all facing similar accusations.
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