Google reportedly taps data collected by Android to boost its own apps

The search giant reportedly has an internal program called Android Lockbox.

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Google reportedly has an internal program that taps "sensitive" data collected by Android, the search giant's mobile operating system, on how people interact with non-Google apps. The company has used this to advance its own products and services over rival Android apps, according to a report Thursday from The Information

The program, internally dubbed Android Lockbox, lets the company see things like how often non-Google apps are opened and how long they're in use, according to The Information. Google reportedly gathers some of this data after people agree to share information while setting up Android.

News of the program comes as Google CEO Sundar Pichai was scheduled to sit before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust on Monday along with the heads of Amazon , Apple and Facebook. While the hearing may now be postponed, it will focus on the subcommittee's "ongoing investigation of competition in the digital marketplace." Google is facing antitrust probes by the Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general. 

In a statement Friday, Google said that it, like other developers, uses the Android App Usage Data API to access "basic data about app usage—such as how often apps are opened—to analyze and improve services." The company said this data is used for things like Android's Adaptive Battery feature or to improve app discovery in the Play store. 

"The API doesn't obtain any information about in-app activity and our collection of this data is disclosed to and controllable by users," said a Google spokesperson.

Android is the dominant mobile operating system in the world, powering almost nine out of 10 smartphones shipped globally. Google released the beta version of Android 11 in June, and it's expected to launch more widely later this year.