TechCrunch looked at the situation with Google’s apps after a story from Fast Company today that speculated that Google’s decline in releasing iOS app updates may be because it was not ready to be transparent about the data it collects from users. The report stated that “Not a single one” of Google̵
It continued to suggest late November to early December timeframe when many of Google’s iOS apps were updated, was another indication that Google was trying to push in a few recent updates before the app’s privacy label deadline.
However, there are some issues with speculation.
First, Google actually updated two of its apps after the deadline – but the updates did not include privacy labels.
Google Slides, the slide show presentation app and one of Google’s most significant productivity apps, was updated on December 14, 2020. And Socratic by Google, a homework helper and the # 7 free app in the Education category, was updated on December 15 (We fact-checked this data with Sensor Tower help, as Google’s iOS directory approaches 100 iPhone apps!)
While it may seem that Google supports Apple’s new rules, we must also be careful not to read too much during the update period. A slowdown in December updates is not uncommon in any way. It’s also not suspicious to see apps pushed out to the public in the weeks before Christmas and New Year because Apple’s App Store itself shuts down during the holidays. This year, the App Store closed from December 23 to December 27, 2020 for its annual break.
And like other large companies, Google goes on code freeze in late December to early January, so as not to cause major problems with its products and services during the holidays when staff are out.
Google is also not the only major app publisher that delayed an immediate embrace of app privacy labels. Amazon and Pinterest, for example, have not yet been updated with privacy labels.
Of course, none of this is to say that app privacy labels are not a concern for Google, given that the primary business is advertising. In fact, they are taken quite seriously – with leaders attending meetings to discuss such things.
Apple appears to have given Google some leeway, as it allowed Google’s apps to update after the deadline without submitting the privacy label information. (It probably won’t make happy smaller developers who worked to meet the deadline.)
Now for comment, a Google spokesperson confirmed that the company has a plan to add privacy labels throughout the app directory. They also confirmed that the labels are expected to start rolling out as soon as this week or next week, although an exact date is not yet available.