Don't Get Scroogled by Google's App Store

Don't Get Scroogled by Google's App Store

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Bing and Windows Phone Launch National Education Campaign Warning Consumers: Don’t Get Scroogled by Google’s App Store
In February, we called attention to Google’s practice of reading through Gmail messages to sell ads. We said that as long as Google keeps Scroogling its customers, we will keep holding them accountable.

Since then, some developers, consumer groups, and even a member of Congress have spoken out about another way Google is breaching your privacy — by a means that, according to a new public GfK Roper poll, 87 percent of American’s aren’t aware. This time, Google’s App Store, Google Play, sends personal information, including a your full name, email address, and the neighborhood where you live, to app makers every time you buy an app. Once Americans learn of this practice, according to the GfK Roper poll, 9 in 10 disapprove of it. GfK is the leading polling firm for the Associated Press. 

When you buy an app from Google’s app store, Google sends your personal information without clear warning and you can’t opt out of the practice. Nothing on the purchase screen or in your email receipt lets you know that the app maker gets your personal details. Even if you cancel the order, you cannot get your personal information back from the developer. Tens of millions of users have already been impacted, and more continue to be every day. What’s more, Google is the only major app store that does this. One consumer group filed a complaint with the FTC, and other privacy experts and Android developers are speaking out.

 “Google’s conduct constitutes a most serious breach of user privacy. Google Play apps deal with sensitive personal subjects, including health conditions and sexual activity.” 
Consumer Watchdog Complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, 02/25/2013

"Let me make this crystal clear, every app purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred. With the information I have available to me through the checkout portal I could track down and harass users who left negative reviews or refunded the app purchase.”
Dan Nolan, developer who uncovered the Google Play Privacy Risk, 02/13/2013

New GfK Roper Poll: Americans Largely Unaware and Strongly Disapprove of the Practice
According to a new public GfK Roper poll, 87 percent of Americans aren’t aware that any app store passes personal information to app developers every time they buy an app. And once Americans learn of this practice, 9 in 10 disapprove of it and think that app stores shouldn’t share personal information with app makers without an opt-out option. Furthermore, 84 percent of Americans agree that it is an invasion of privacy when app stores share personal information with the makers of the apps they purchase.

Bing and Windows Phone Launch National Consumer Education Campaign at
So today, at, Bing and Windows Phone are launching a national education campaign, including national TV, print, and digital ads, to make consumers aware of the personal information Google shares with app developers each time they purchase an app from Google’s app store, Google Play. It is also to remind people that Microsoft is different: The Windows Phone Store doesn’t share our customers’ personal information with third-party app makers.

Why should consumers be concerned? Many apps involve personal subjects, like health conditions, disease management, and sexual behavior. So you can imagine how their personal privacy is put at risk when the makers of those apps are given their full name, email address, and the area where they live. It would be easy to see how, in the hands of the wrong person, these personal details could be abused and further circulated: With your full name and ZIP code, third parties could easily locate your street address and demographic information.

We’re not the first to recognize these privacy risks. Here are some things privacy experts are saying:

 "Meaningful consent is about people understanding what they're getting into. It's about not tricking them. In a situation like this, where people just don't know what information is being transferred or who it's going to or for what purpose, it seems ridiculous to say that Google has consent." 
Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center 02/15/2013

Google has been caught, again, in a systematic violation of their users’ privacy. If you buy something from the Apple App Store it is a private transaction between you and the App Store. If you buy anything from the newsstand on the corner, maybe a newspaper and some gum for $.99, it is an anonymous transaction. But if you buy anything from Google Play, the Google App store, your personal information is transmitted to the seller.”
Professor Eric Clemons, University of Pennsylvania, in the Huffington Post 02/27/2013

So What’s Google’s Defense?

After Android developers exposed Google’s deceptive app store privacy practices in February, privacy experts, consumer groups, and Congress spoke out about their concerns.  In response to a letter from a member of Congress (LINK), Google offered several explanations for their behavior.

Google claims they disclose this sharing of personal information in the fine print of the Google Wallet Terms of Service. But, as numerous experts have attested, this is far from clear and nowhere in the fine print does it say that every time you buy an app, Google shares your personal information with the app maker. (LINK)

Google also claims that sharing this information is necessary to process your transaction and maintain your account — that is, to issue refunds, reversals and payment adjustments. But, similar stores — including the Windows Phone Store and Apple’s App store, don’t do this, because it isn’t necessary for an app maker to have your full name, email address and ZIP code to process the initial transaction, issue refunds or handle customer service issues. Google could easily provide more anonymous means to handle these transactions.

And finally, Google claims that app makers agree to protect the privacy of your data. But, as Google puts more of your personal information in the hands of strangers, spread all across the world, it’s more likely that it will be abused and it only takes one breach to seriously compromise the privacy of a number of the tens of millions of Android app buyers in the United States. Google has already admitted to complaints about the possible misuse of personal information by developers (LINK).

Privacy is our Priority
Unlike Google, the Windows Phone Store doesn’t share your personal information with app makers. Windows Phone has a robust app validation and certification process to help ensure that our apps are trustworthy and reliable for our consumers. Your privacy is our priority. If you can’t trust Google’s app store, then maybe you shouldn’t trust Google for anything.

  • I am a businesman so my information shared with other people or personels only gives me more views and recognition I thank Google for that.

  • Thanks for pointing out this flaw, now stop focusing on their problems and start fixing yours. I had a Windows Phone 8 for a while, but had to give it up because the app selection was laughable. Maybe if you spent less money on nonsense PR and more money on paying app developers to port over to Windows Phone you'd be a viable competitor.

  • Who cares? Make a better and more compelling product/service. I don't think anyone will stop using Google services based on this "Scroogle" campaign. This seems like an act of desperation on the part of MSFT.

  • One of the first things I learned about business is to NOT speak ill of your competitors. Drive home the positives of what you offer and don't trash others.

  • ...spend some money on lawyers and take them on. Don't expect your blog-readers to pressure Google so that you don't have to spend money on principles you apparently (but don't really) care about :\

  • Personally, I didn't realize this but then again, never worried as I don't own an Android phone, but don't like the way Google looks through everything,  tracking all activity and placing adverts which I don't want accordingly.  

    Each user that uses Chrome on a PC,  costs you 1gb of disk space.  like   why,

    Chrome itself is around 200mb,  10 times that of Firefox or IE ,  and keeps a cache of every page.

    How can you trust a company that works and provides based on revenue generated from selling adverts based on your information.

  • Does it really matter? Infact I like that the devs know who I am, I was under the impression that this was always happening. Keep up the great work Google you are trying to provide the best service not tash the competition.

  • I can't believe how many people don't care to be asked if their personal information is handed off to someone else ... for any reason.

    I can only think that either they don't understand how they can be manipulated (and probably are being manipulated), or simple find comfort in abdicating their thinking to others so they don't have to be responsible for thinking themselves.

    If the too stupid to realize their too stupid weren't dragging me down with them, I would simply pity them.

    Unfortunately, their stupidity is replacing our republic with an oligarchy.

    BTW, if you don't understand how our republic is being replaced with an oligarchy via the collection, distribution, and analysis of our personal information, then you are too stupid.

  • This is is new scam deployed by gmail namely to trick you to give away your phone number. To register new gmail account now you have to give phone number. But that's minor.

    Another scam trick is for gmail, if it detects that you logged in from another country to block access to your gmail until you guessed right  ... again you give your phone number. We'll it may sound right at first - security, unauthorised assess, but there is no security whatsoever:  either they are incompetent idiots or  this is just a trick to get your phone number.

    How it works. Me and my wife have family gmail account. I was was in Australia where we registered gmail address. My wife went to Europe and attempted to log into gmail from there,  - no she couldn't and was asked physical phone number to receive code to login in. Roaming, costly to receive calls, she didn't unlock account. I may understand that, ok, but the weirdest thing happened later. The access to gmail was blocked also from IP address where this account was registered and gmail again requesting phone number to unblock it. So I gave away my private phone number and gmail was unblocked and my wife could easily use it overseas again. See the stupidity?  If that would be unauthorised login to gmail account from Europe, then how this would help to protect it? The account was blocked for regular IP address it is accessed from and user (me) and when I unblocked it by giving away my phone number gmail gave full access to account  to "suspicious" overseas user from anywhere in the world. How that would protect me?

    There is only one most likely explanation - they used pretence of security to make me give away my phone number. That's all google needed.

  • I really like Windows 8. Job well done guys! Looking forward to Blue.

    But this is, how should we describe it... dick move? I know you don't like Google too much - but also to be fair, Google has never fired shots like that at you, or anyone else.

    Not sure that anyone is gonna read this comment anyways - but what you're doing here is a bit over the top. I saw the ad... while it had some funny elements (like the Street View car), I'm not sure this can air in some countries in Europe. I know you can't do this in Germany - there actually is a law against that kind of advertisement.

    Just be careful and maybe word things differently.

  • Oh Reallhy, now in this Tech society from buying groceries to the purchasing of a home/cell phone using the person information in one form or another.  Now Bing/Windows is using some type of traking information on there consumers so get off it.  

  • Pointing out the faults and potentially evil intentions of a competitor is a fine strategy.

    A good strategy?  Offer a product that actually beats your competitor.  

    Android may be mis-using personal information, but at least it is usable.  The largest computer builders in the world are not blaming Android for terrible sales.  

  • Shame on you, Microsoft. You now look like a child who's beating others in class because they perform better.

    Is this what you want to teach your customers?

    If we can't trust you with playing fair to others, then maybe we shouldn't trust you for anything.

  • You should too.  It would not be hard for Google to let you know when they share PII.  In the fast moving world of the Internet, it is easy to become lazy.  Don't give away free what you can be compensated for...

  • This is not new, google has been doing it for years. I dont trust google at all

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