Google puts privacy over business incentives with new developer restrictions

Facing pressure from policymakers on privacy issues, Google is clamping down on how third-party developers can use data they collect from its popular email service Gmail.

The company will not allow app developers to scan its customers’ emails for personal data and use it for ad targeting.



Silicon Valley companies have long tried to maintain a difficult balance between sharing data with developers and protecting their customers’ privacy. Until recently, the scale often tipped in favor of fostering engaging apps.

“The pendulum is swinging back the other way,” said Venky Ganesan, managing director of Menlo Ventures, a firm that invests in start-ups like Uber.

And it’s not just Google making these moves. Facebook, too, has reined in the amount of data that outside developers can collect on its users, announcing new changes to its rules in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Both Google and Facebook’s decisions are intended to provide customers with more data security by limiting the number of parties who gain access to customers’ personal information. Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission, told that Google’s policy changes would benefit consumers. He noted email contains some of a person’s most sensitive information — from personal financial details to medical data. It also is the primary way to reset a lost or forgotten password.

“I think this is a positive step by Google in helping consumers protect what’s probably their most sensitive account, their email,” he said.

Other companies may soon follow Google and Facebook’s lead in introducing tighter restrictions for developers. Already, privacy-focused Apple gives users granular control over what data app developers can and cannot access. Bankston predicts we could see even more limits on what developers can access from phone operating systems, even on platforms that have been very open to developers such as Android.

source: Cat Zakrzewski

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