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 can't believe the once great microsoft has come to this. There is a saying: "When you point a finger, you have three pointing back at you." Look at your flaws, before pointing out others. Your phones have not surpassed that of android or apple, and for all we know, you're all doing it. -Cynical Person

  • I hate you Microsoft!!!  You mislead me into thinking I can get all my Word, Excel, Powerpoint onto my Windows phone.  As it turns out you made it READ ONLY so I can't do any work on my Windows phone.  Are you stupid or greedy Microsoft?  Google allows me to use free KingSoft App.  They are a company in China.  Now I can edit all my Microsoft documents on a google phone.

    And what's with your site  It does everything except importing your Outlook data.  Are you stupid Microsoft???

  • the funny thing is: on you want the user to post and share on facebook. Do you really think facebook respects your privacy?? And how does the the yahoo bing ad network work? just placing ad's whatever the customer is interested in? schizophrenic...seems to me like fishing for dumb people.

  • Shameful activity by Microsoft. Stop denigrating and start innovating

  • This is hardly trashing, the article even comments on Apple not doing this. Why is it when Facebook is accused of privacy issues, people scream and shout complaining about it, but the second Google comes under fire you are all "that is ok I want my e-mail and details public"?

    Talk about double standards.

    I like MS, this was a little bold for them but if anything all this article proved was the hypocrisy of people.

    Keep up the great work MS, <3 all your products

  • Because people love Google. Not a great many people love Microsoft... They're just now being given two better alternatives in a post PC era and are flocking to them in droves. Seriously, the company that made the software that runs almost every PC in the WORLD can't compete in what's is arguably the most important shift in personal computing? They suck at mobile, and no amount of phony altruism or snotty bully campaigns are going to build them a better mobile operating system. They need another J Allard or they're gonna get scroogled.

  • I don't care, I call people on BMO so... yeah.

  • HA look at how they do it tab MICROSOFT IS  USING GOOGLE CHROME MOT IE!!!

  • Oh no, someone that I purchased something from knows my name and country.  Big whoop!  You're making it sound like google hands out everyone's credit card numbers.

    I like windows 8 and am excited for Blue, but this is really disappointing that MS is sinking to this level.  Try getting some good apps in your market place (including google aps) and improving your search engine instead of acting desperate by insinuating that your competitor is evil.

  • IT IS amazing how much Microsoft is trying to downplay Google!

    Things like this and the BING it on challenge.

    I think Microsoft just doesn't like the compaction.

    Google's never downplayed you.

    if I am wrong please tell me.

  • Android seems to be the most developer friendly platform to create and publish apps. Here's a tip for you MS, get Adobe AIR to work for Windows 8 RT and we will support you with more apps.

    btw, it's quite petty to pick on this privacy issue, your success should to be based on performance and results.

  • ALL online business's have done this. And are STILL doing it. Including you Microsoft.

    Who are you kidding?

    As if I am stupid enough to believe there is any thing such as [privacy] on the internet. Sure....

    Nothing is hidden online. Nothing. Remember that people. FB, MS, Google, Apple... THEY ALL do this and have no intentions of stopping. Deal with it. Like you have been for the past 10 years now, because it's not news at all.

  • If there is an IT company to not trust it's Microsoft. They have been spreading FUD about competitors for years. Producing poorly designed products and telling us other companies are ripping us off. What about the prolific ad campaign for your latest blunder, Window 8? This travesty is about as mind blowing as Microsoft Bob. If you put as much money into producing decent products as you do in slamming other vendors ,you might be able to produce something worth buying.

  • Anything you purchase online gives the vendor access to this info. Nothing new. Don't be suckered by this fear game microsoft is playing.

  • First let me state that I really like the direction Microsoft is headed with their new products.  They're more streamlined and promote unified experiences for the Microsoft consumer base.

    With that being said, this "Scroogled" campaign completely puts Microsoft in a bad light (not Google).  Using the privacy flaws of a competitor to try to boost your own image only makes your company look desperate, and completely unprofessional.

    Your findings may have basis for people to scrutinize Google, however attempting to turn it into this big ad campaign for your own gain makes it appear that you're only interested in gaining Google's customers, not addressing the issue at hand.

    I hope Microsoft reconsiders pushing this absurd "Scroogled" campaign.  I see no positive benefit it brings to it's own image, and the people using the technology.

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