Services & Software

Google Removes Apps Secretly Collecting User Data, Report Says

The apps reportedly could return if the data-collecting software is removed.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google has removed dozens of apps from the Google Play Store that were secretly collecting users' data, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The Journal said the Panamanian company that wrote the data-collecting code is linked to a Virginia defense contractor that does cyberintelligence work for US agencies. 

The code was found in several Muslim prayer apps, a highway-speed-trap detection app, a QR-code reading app and a number of other popular consumer apps, the Journal reported, citing researchers who discovered the code. It reportedly ran on millions of Android devices. 

Google told the Journal that the apps in question were removed from the Play Store on March 25 for collecting data outside of the tech giant's established rules. 

"All apps on Google Play must comply with our policies, regardless of the developer," Google said in a statement. "When we determine an app violates these policies, we take appropriate action."

This isn't the first time Google has removed apps from the Play Store for collecting users' data. In 2019, more than 1,000 apps were found to be collecting people's data without their permission and were removed. 

Google has also taken steps to try to prevent harmful apps from making their way to the Play Store. Starting this month, Google is requiring first- and third-party Android developers to include a privacy policy with their apps. This requirement will let people see safety and privacy guidelines before downloading the app so users will know how their data is collected, stored and used.

For more Google news, check out these Android 13 rumors, what to do about your private data that's floating around online and how reverse Google Images search can help you bust frauds.

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