- A new report claims Google has been collecting usage information of third-party apps.
- Google has reportedly used the information to improve its own app offerings.
Building apps for an OS it develops may not be the only advantage Google has over third-party Android developers. According to a report by The Information (paywall) (via MSPowerUser), Google has been collecting and studying usage data from competing apps to better develop its own apps.
The report claims the anonymized, user-consented data is stored in an “Android Lockbox” service. Google says this service primarily powers features like background apps management. The company also noted that this info is freely available to the apps’ developers, but their visibility is limited to their own products.
Why is this important? For starters, it allows Google to make critical business decisions based on data viewable only by itself and the developers of an app. The Information reports that Google utilized data garnered from TikTok to better understand how or when to launch a rival app for the Indian market. The company also reportedly analyzed usage data gathered from email apps competing with Gmail, as well as Instagram and Facebook.
Theoretically, Google could garner information about apps across a slew of categories. To better Gboard, it could gain information from third-party keyboard apps. Google Keep could benefit from studying note-taking app data. YouTube Music could be improved by looking at data from streaming and music services. Google could use this info to improve its products or to discover potential business opportunities.
There’s a strong case to be made that, as the developer of Android, Google is entitled to monitor how apps behave on the platform. But the company’s use of this data could be seen as anti-competitive behavior. It’s an issue the company has run into multiple times before in the EU, India, Russia, and now possibly the US too. Google has already racked up billions of dollars in fines from antitrust decisions, but it’s not yet clear if these new revelations will result in further legal trouble.