Without a doubt, Google Play is one of the largest Android app store and, considering that it’s owned by the company that practically dictates SEO, some might even call it trustworthy. However, last month, an Australian developer – Dan Nolan – discovered and revealed to the world a piece of information that will upset many faithful Android fans. To put it simply, the developers of the apps you find on Google Play have access to private customer information such as name, email and zip code.

Google Wallet privacy policy

Granted, the privacy policy notice of Google Wallet informs the user that they will be collecting the following type of information:

  • Registration information that includes name, address, date of birth, credit/debit card number as well as data about the bank account and expiration date
  • Third party data associated with the transactions
  • Date, time and amount spent in the transactions

According to the same source, the aforementioned information is used to provide customers with better services and in order to protect them from identity theft, phishing or other misconduct. In addition, they will not reveal your personal data to anyone without your consent and you can even opt out of sharing the information with GPC and affiliates.


The grey area

The privacy policy of the Google Wallet includes a grey area that allows legal interpretation, namely whether the app developers can be considered affiliates. Even though Google it legally covered on this one, from an ethical point of view this is not fair for the users. What is even more bothersome is that Google’s representatives claim that the user information is essential for a smooth transaction processing and that they already mentioned this issue in the private policy notice.

The potential consequences of the mishap

As Dan Nolan pointed out, an app developer with access to the user’s personal information could easily track down customers who made refunds or left negative reviews in order to harass them. While chances of this happening are relatively low – in the end it all depends on each application developer’s character – it is important to note that the temptation of using the email address for personal benefits is fairly high. For instance, what if a developer decides to include previous customers to his new marketing campaign using their email address?  Lastly, what if an angry developer decides to get back on his customers and starts selling a fake app with malware in it?

In defense of the practice

Since Google Wallet is similar to PayPal, it is necessary to highlight that certain measures must be taken in order to prevent fraud, including from the customers’ end. Furthermore, since the customers on Google Play are the developer’s clients and not Google’s – even though it is easy to assume that you’re buying from Google since you don’t really visit the developer’s site – knowing who they are could prove very useful in providing better user services.

If it's on the Internet, it isn't private.

Not to mention the fact that developers need a way to protect themselves against ownership scams. After all, if you walk into a gadget shop to return your newly bought headphones, you won’t receive a refund unless you provide proof of your ownership. Still, in spite of the fact that you can’t fully blame them for trying to find a solution to protect app developers, the protection mechanism should not be to the detriment of the users.

At the same time, via the limited purpose clause, Google does hold app developers accountable, at least to a certain extent. In addition, let’s not forget that developers are also bound to local laws and could end up behind bars if they engage in any type of illicit activity.

The bottom line

Overall, the new rule that forces users to sign in with their real name in order to leave a comment or reply is starting to make more sense. However, considering that customers in general love spam and email marketing ads just as much as they enjoy pushy door-to-door salesmen, it would only be fair that Google modifies the privacy policy notice on its Wallet app. The developers who have various apps on Google Play Store should be able to have access to this kind of data only if the user has granted his permission.

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