Google under fire for sending users' information to developers
By Jessica Guynn February 14, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sebastian Holst makes yoga mobile apps with his wife, a yoga instructor.
The Mobile Yogi is sold in all the major mobile app stores. But when someone buys his app in the Google Play store, Holst automatically gets something he says he didn't ask for: the buyer's full name, location and email address.
He says consumers are not aware that Google Inc. is sharing their personal information with third parties. No other app store transmits users' personal information to third-party developers when they buy apps, he said.
"Google is not taking reasonable steps to ensure that this data is used correctly," said Holst, whose app has 120,000 users.
Google is coming under fire just as regulators in the U.S. and overseas are stepping up their scrutiny of how all the players in the industry -- mobile apps, stores, advertising networks and others -- handle consumers' private information. Regulators are pushing for greater transparency of what information is collected by apps and how it's shared.
Google Play has worked differently than Apple Inc.'s iTunes since it launched in October 2008. An app developer sets up an account through the mobile payment system Google Wallet, which makes them a merchant in the store. When someone buys his or her app from Google Play, that transaction -- and the customer's information -- is sent to the developer. The developer has to comply with rules about what he or she can do with the information.
But at Apple, iTunes is the merchant. App developers say they never receive customer information.
Google defended how Google Play operates in an emailed statement.