An internal program at Google known as “ Android Lockbox ” could give company employees access to information about how Android users interact with popular, non-Google apps and services, according to a new report The information. The program, which works through Google Mobile Services, means that employees are said to be able to see “sensitive” data about other apps, including how often they open and how long they are used.
Sources claim that this information was used to monitor rivals for Google’s Gmail service or to track usage of Facebook and Instagram. Google is also said to have used it to plan the launch of its TikTok competitor, Shorts. The information notes that in some cases Google employees may need to request permission to view this data and sometimes reject these requests.
The report is because Google’s company is intensively monitored in the US. Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify in Congress; the company faces an antitrust investigation by almost every US state and the Department of Justice plans to file an application its own antitrust case. While these studies are believed to focus on the company’s search and advertising companies, discoveries about potential unfair Android business practices are unlikely to be welcomed.
The information reports that Android Lockbox will get the most useful information when users agree to share information with Google as part of the Android installation process. Users are told that Google can provide a more personalized experience with this data, however The information says it also provides data for competitive research.
Respond The informationGoogle’s report admitted that it can access usage data from competing apps, but it said the program is public and other developers also have access to similar data. However, it is believed that Google’s reach with the program is much greater as it covers every device with Google pre-installed apps, while other developers can only see information from phones with their apps. Google said the data doesn’t provide information about how people behave while using individual apps, but not whether they were used to develop competing apps.
The data collected is anonymous and not personally identifiable, The information says. Google says the data collection is made public to users and they have control over it.
If that’s true, Google wouldn’t be the only company attempting to collect data from phones about competing services. In 2017, one reporting from The Wall Street Journal said Facebook used a VPN service it owned, Onavo, to monitor competitive services and plan its acquisitions, such as WhatsApp. The app will be closed in 2019.