Google is using an internal program known as “Android Lockbox” to allow its employees access information about how Android users interact with other popular apps that do not belong to the company. This is according to a new report published by The Information.
The program works via Google Mobile Services and allows employees to view sensitive data about other apps on android devices, including how often they are opened and how long they are used.
Google is said to have been using this information to keep tabs with Facebook and Instagram. It is also thought to be the driver behind Google’s creation of its TikTok rival, Shorts. The article however points out that Google sometimes has to request for permission to access the information, and in some cases, it is denied.
When users give the permissions, Google is able to collect useful information as part of the Android set up process. Android users are notified that giving permissions allows Google to give a more personalized experience, although Google uses the opportunity for competitive research.
Google responded to the claims saying that access to data usage by rival apps is public and that other developers do the same and collect similar data.
However, Google is deemed to have a far wider reach since Android devices are pre-installed with Google’s apps, unlike the rest of the developers who can access information only when users install their apps on the devices.
Google said the data did not give information regarding how users behave when using the apps, although they did not comment on using the information to develop competing apps.
According to The Information, the data collected is anonymous. The tech giant said the data collection is disclosed and within the control of the users.