EVERY time you purchase an app on Google Play, your name, address and email is passed on to the developer, it has been revealed today.
The “flaw” – which appears to be by design – was discovered this morning by Sydney app developer, Dan Nolan who told news.com.au that he was uncomfortable being the custodian of this information and that there was no reason for any developer to have this information at their finger tips.
You may remember Mr Nolan as the creator of the Paul Keating insult generator all that hit number one in the Aussie App Store last month.”
“Let me make this crystal clear, every App purchase you make on Google Play gives the developer your name, suburb and email address with no indication that this information is actually being transferred,” Nolan wrote on his blog.
“With the information I have available to me through the checkout portal I could track down and harass users who left negative reviews or refunded the app purchase.”
Harrassment aside, the problems posed by malware – “virus” programs that infect your phone, or computer and steal your personal details – are far more serious.
With Google customers’ details just sitting in developers accounts, all it would take is a half decent piece of malware software for that information to be accessed. These personal details could then be used to access the users’ bank details. That’s also more than enough information to be able to access your other devices which could also be mined for more data – insurance information, other credit cards – which could then be used to access your banking credentials.
Mr Nolan told News.com.au that tens of millions of Google customers could be affected.
“As far as I can tell this impacts every person who purchased an App on the Play Store,” he said.
“I can’t see any way to opt out of providing that information and it seems to be a feature of the Google checkout process. I don’t know whether it applies to free apps, but there are hundreds of thousands of apps that are available for pay on the play store and there are millions of people who buy Android apps out there, I’d say easily millions or tens of millions of people.
“It’s active in every market that Google accepts payment for apps. That’s a lot of people having their personal information handed over without them knowing.”
Mr Nolan told News.com.au that user information has always been provided to developers, “as far as he could tell and that the reason it hadn’t been discovered until now was because the people who would have paid attention to it were likely exploiting it and selling users’ personal information, it using it as an extra source of revenue on top of what they were making off their Google Play / Android app.
“In comparison to the information you get from Apple which is just a quantity of sales in a Country and then a cheque three months later, this is absolutely absurd,” he said.
“I doubt anyone expects to have their contact information, name and suburb sent to a developer purely because they decide to buy an app off the Play Store. ”
Google’s terms of service state that it may store your personal information including your name, address and billing details, but nowhere in its privacy statement does the company explicitly state that it passes on your personal information to developers, every time you purchase their app.
The terms of service state that Google will share your address and personal information if you purchase a magazine subscription through Google Play, but it makes no mention of other apps.
“This is a massive oversight by Google,” Nolan wrote on his blog.
“Under no circumstances should I be able to get the information of the people who are buying my apps unless they opt into it and it’s made crystal clear to them that I’m getting this information. This is a massive, massive privacy issue Google. Fix it. Immediately.”