Google is now requiring Android app developers to implement controls that let an app’s users delete their account and data either in the app or outside it, via the web. Developers must comply with the policy by May 31, 2024, the company said in a Wednesday blog post.
The web requirement means data deletion isn’t limited to people who still have an app installed on their devices. Folks won’t have to re-download an app just to request that their data be removed. Instead, Google is requiring that developers link to a data deletion request form on an app’s Google Play Store listing page.
Google is also putting data deletion information in a more prominent location on an app’s Play Store page, in the form of a new badge in the app’s data safety section.
The search giant says the moves are meant to empower people and build consumer trust.
After major data breaches over the years, including Meta’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Equifax data breach and Marriott’s data breach, governments around the world have stepped up enforcement of data protection.
The EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in 2018, and used it to push hefty fines on tech giants for not complying. Congress has called for privacy regulation in the past and grilled TikTok CEO Shou Chew last month over privacy concerns, but so far it hasn’t passed any major legislation. The US Senate did introduce the Restrict Act earlier this year, a bill that would give the government powers to restrict a wide range of products coming from China, but the move has online civil liberties organizations concerned.
In recent years, Apple has been pushing a marketing message saying it cares deeply about user privacy. Apple changed how apps dealt with user data by making it an opt-in feature versus opt-out. This meant that if the Facebook app wanted to share or track a person’s data, the app would have to ask permission first. Before, the option may have been tucked away in the settings. Following the change, one analytics company suggested that users had decided to opt out of tracking 96 percent of the time.
Android users too are feeling concerned about their data, with one survey showing that 49% say they prefer switching to an iPhone because of concerns about security and privacy. Considering that the iPhone has overtaken Android in the US for the first time in over a decade, Google’s more privacy-forward policies and messaging may make sense.
Google declined to comment beyond the blog post.