Google Is Reportedly Spying On Users’ Non-Google Apps Usage To Learn How Rival Applications Work

According to recent reports, Google has access to third-party app usage data of users. The Information reported that the company uses an internal program called Android Lockbox to collect data about users interact with non-Google Android apps and services. The report provides details on how the Android Lockbox program works.

This program works through Google Mobile Services and allows Google employees to access sensitive information about other applications, including how often you open an app and for how long you use popular non-Google applications and services such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, etc.

The report claims that Google used it to plan the rollout of the company’s TikTok rival called Short, which Google’s YouTube announced earlier this month. Shorts will be rolled out by the end of this year. The Information reports that although workers can access this data, they need to first request access in some cases, and the company may also sometimes deny employees’ requests.

On top of that, the Android Lockbox program collects the most useful data when people agree to share data with Google as part of the setup process on Android OS. The company claims that the collected data helps Google to offer a more personalized experience. However, The Information states that this data also provides data to Google for competitive research.

The recent report comes as the company’s business is under intense antitrust scrutiny in the United States. Sundar Pichai, CEO Google, is due to testify in Congress, and reports claim that the Justice Department is planning to file an antitrust case against Google. However, these investigations are thought to be focusing on Google’s search and ad business.

In response to the report published by The Information, the company admitted that Google has access to usage states from rival applications. But the company claims that this program is public and other developers can also see similar stats to improve their services. But Google’s reach with this program is much further as compared to other developers since it covers any gadget with preinstalled Google applications. In comparison, other developers can only view data from smartphones that have their applications installed.

Moreover, the tech giant states that this information does not reveal data about users’ behavior while they are using individual applications, but Google did not reveal whether the company has used this tool to create competing applications. According to The Information, Google claims that the collected data with Android Lockbox is anonymous and it is not personally identifiable.

It is interesting to note that Google is not the first company to be found collecting data from devices about rival apps and services. Back in the year 2017, it was found that Facebook used a VPN service to monitor competing apps, and plan the company’s acquisitions such as WhatsApp. The app was called Onavo, shut down in 2019.



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