By Zsarlene B. Chua
ALPHABET Inc.’s Google has announced new privacy measures in a bid to make “privacy work for everyone,” which includes limiting third-party developers’ access to user data on the Google Chrome Store and Google Drive.
“We recognize that we have an obligation to have the strongest possible policies and procedures that govern access to data and sharing of data with third-party developers,” Keith Enright, Google’s Chief Privacy Officer, told the media during a web conference on May 31.
He said only requests access for data “appropriate to the specific features of the application will be approved.”
“This is going to be a material improvement for user privacy and will provide more restricted access to data to third parties,” Mr. Enright said.
Google will also be requiring developers to post privacy policies for the extensions they offer on the Web Store.
While the requirement regarding posting privacy policies are already in place for some extensions that require personal and sensitive user data, Google is expanding said policy to cover extensions that need access to any personal communication or content generated by the user.
Aside from tighter policies on the Chrome Web Store, Mr. Enright said they will also be limiting the apps that use Google Drive’s APIs from “broadly accessing certain kinds of content or data in the Drive.”
“This means that we’re going to be restricting third-party access to specific files and we are going to verify that public apps that require broader access — like backup applications,” he said.
The said policies will not take effect immediately, said Mr. Enright, as the tech giant is giving third-party developers time to adapt to the “new, more restrictive policies” as they try to “balance our strong commitment to providing the strongest possible privacy protection for our users.”
While no specific date has been set for implementation, The Verge, in a May 30 report, noted that Google will give developers a 90-day transition period before the changes take effect.
During the conference, Mr. Enright announced they are making access to privacy controls easier for users on several of their major products: Search, Maps and Assistant. This allows users to customize their privacy preferences using “simple on/off controls” which lets users decide “which activity you want to save to your account,” according to a Google blog post on May 7.
Another privacy announcement is the introduction of Incognito mode to other Google products like Maps.
Incognito mode was launched more than a decade ago for Google Search and this feature allows users to browse the web without their activity being saved on one’s browser or device.
Mr. Enright said they are working on introducing Incognito mode to other products though no definite timeline has been set.
“We are not delivering privacy as some sort of luxury good… We want the strongest possible privacy protections to be available to all of our users everywhere in the world where our products and services are offered,” he said.