Despite Google agreeing to roll out App Privacy Labels to its app suite, a majority of its biggest applications still don’t have an update with privacy information.
Apple introduced the labels last year to ensure developers comply with App Store rules. Promised in iOS 14, before being implemented in iOS 14.3, the privacy tags compel developers to provide labels – app transparency tags – that force them to disclose what data the app receives from the user.
But Google is very late to add the labels to its iOS apps; in fact, the Gmail application even issues a warning that it doesn’t have the latest security features because it hasn’t been updated in so long.
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As noted by Techmeme editor, Spencer Dailey, major apps are yet to receive the labels. Version 6.0.201115 of the Gmail app is the only available version of Gmail on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, including the iPhone 12, its Apple iPad Air (2020), and the latest Apple iPad Pro (2020) – but this Gmail version hasn’t been updated since December 1.
So, what’s the holdup? Well, Google stated earlier this year that it had no intention of flouting Apple’s labels, instead planning to retroactively update its app suite with the new privacy tags. But there’s still been no updates rolled out to its flagship apps.
Speculation now suggests that Google could be stalling because of the criticism that other companies such as Facebook received, although this isn't confirmed. Dailey adds in his blog that Google’s delay could be the company 'servicing' its data collection methods before the labels reveal what permissions its apps request.
There certainly seems to be some merit in claims Google is delaying; John Gruber, a technology blogger, has drummed up a comprehensive list of Google’s iOS apps, which still haven’t received updates since early December (via Daring Fireball).
It isn’t a good look considering the privacy storm that is crippling certain tech giants. Both Signal and Telegram from our best WhatsApp alternatives have profited from the fallout, with the apps’ userbases ballooning in size.
It remains a mystery why Google is taking so long to bolt-on App Privacy labels to its iOS apps. Even more puzzling since the company has continued to update its Android apps, which can run on our pick of the best Android phones. Perhaps it indicates that Google isn't so transparent as it would like to project; that said, nothing is proven until we have greater visibility through the addition of Apple's labels.